Bad light and Mohammad Rizwan fifty frustrate England on gloomy Friday
England’s hopes of rolling Pakistan cheaply ran aground on day two of the second Test as gloomy weather and enterprising batting from Mohammad Rizwan stalled their momentum.
Just over 40 overs were possible on Friday, with the tourists’ first innings on 223 for nine at the end of a painfully frustrating day.
England managed four wickets for 97 runs across three broken passages of play but spent more time holed up in the pavilion than advancing the game in the middle.
Pakistan, who had Rizwan’s accomplished 53 not out to thank for keeping them in the conversation, were equally badly served by the circumstances as they would surely have fancied a long bowl at their opponents under overcast skies that rendered run-scoring a fraught mission.
As such it was umpires Michael Gough and Richard Kettleborough who found themselves caught in the crossfire, though the rancour was largely contained to social media given the lack of fans in attendance this summer.
But while there were no ticket-holders left feeling short-changed, the decision to pull the contest while floodlights blazed for all four corners of the ground felt a disservice to both sides given the logistical roadblocks that have already been swerved to stage international cricket in the midst of a pandemic.
Just 86 overs out of a scheduled 180 have been possible so far and the game will need to accelerate briskly to keep a disappointing draw at bay.
Having taken three for 18 the previous evening to leave Pakistan 126 for five, England were left kicking their heels until 12.30pm by morning showers in Southampton.
That left an hour-long session to make up for lost time, with Babar Azam and Rizwan sent out under a blanket of dark clouds that seam bowlers dream about.
Survival was the best the batsmen could hope for and it was to their credit that they turned what seemed a thankless task into a minor success, stifling all four pacemen and adding 29 to the total.
Babar scored 20 of those but it was a wise, restrained display as the team’s most natural stroke-maker temporarily shelved his impressive array of drives and left the ball consistently.
Instead he favoured low-risk nudges off his pads alongside a couple of well-timed boundaries, one clean pull off Chris Woakes and a straighter push off James Anderson. Such moments were hard won and well deserved.
Sam Curran came closest to unsettling Babar on 40, when the ball deflected in front of the stumps and bounced safe, while Rizwan flew happily below the radar in support.
England began the afternoon session knowing they might need something special to get the better of Babar and Broad was the man to produce it. In his second over after the the restart he left his opponent no option but to play at a ball that pitched around middle before drifting away off the pitch.
The edge was inevitable, Jos Buttler’s catch undroppable and England’s relief considerable. They would have been well on the way to wrapping things up had the wicketkeeper been able to cling on to Rizwan on 14, but when he gloved a Broad bouncer down the leg side Buttler’s leap was not quite enough.
There was no question of him holding on when Yasir Shah’s flat-footed swing gave James Anderson his third of the match and when Dom Sibley produced his second direct hit of the series to run out Shaheen Afridi for nought a swift decline seemed certain.
All that stood in the way was Rizwan, but that was more than enough. Having chiselled out 24 from his first 70 balls he scored 36 off his next 46 taking his knock to another level with inventive shot selection and well-judged flashes of aggression.
England lost their composure, too quickly adopting defensive fields and throwing too much variation as Rizwan guided his silent partner, Mohammad Abbas, to a 39-run stand.
The tailender’s only runs came just before an early tea was taken via a thick edge that burst through slip. The evening session comprised just nine balls and 10 minutes, enough for Broad to go back to basics and pin Abbas lbw with some trademark movement off the seam.
Abbas would have been straining at the leash to get his own chance in ideal conditions but the light readings scuppered his hopes of getting back out with ball in hand.
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