NASSER HUSSAIN: England's fielding could cost them victory

NASSER HUSSAIN: England have mainly gone wrong in the field during this first Test against Pakistan… and the sloppy catching and missed chances could cost Joe Root’s men victory in Manchester

  • Friday was a brilliant, absorbing day of cricket that other formats cannot match 
  • Pakistan are an incredibly well balanced and excellent attack of pace and spin  
  • I did feel England could have been more pro-active against Yasir Shah though 
  • But England have mainly gone wrong in the field in this first Manchester Test

However much you enjoy Twenty20 and the 50-over game, they do not have what we saw here in the first hour of the third day. That was brilliant, absorbing Test cricket.

There was Mohammad Abbas, with no real pace, challenging the inside and outside edge of Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler — and lbw was always in play with him.

There was the left-arm pace and swing of the 6ft 5in Shaheen Afridi and a teenager in Naseem Shah pushing 90 miles per hour. And the wrist-spin of Yasir Shah. They are an incredibly well balanced, excellent attack.

England have mainly gone wrong in the field during this first Test against tourists Pakistan

Buttler missed chances in the first innings when they should have dismissed Pakistan for less

They provided the ultimate examination of two batsmen in Pope and Buttler who usually want to be positive but had to rein themselves in and play the situation.

You could tell, also, that coaches Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have instilled discipline into a side that can be erratic and unpredictable. Their bowlers were prepared to dry England up and work their way through them.

I couldn’t fault Pope or Buttler. Naseem is a skiddy bowler and then from nowhere he got one to bounce on Pope and there was very little he could do about it.

Buttler, meanwhile, was resilient and was right to avoid going into one-day mode. There are times in Test cricket when you have to guts it out and he was trying to do that — but the problem with this Pakistan attack is there is no let-up.

Left-arm paceman Shaheen Afridi forms part of a well-balanced Pakistan bowling line-up

Misbah-ul-Haq has instilled discipline into a side that can be erratic and unpredictable

Yasir can bowl some bad balls and provide a bit of respite, as we saw on the second day, but he averages more than five wickets a match in his 39 Tests and that is because he bowls plenty of wicket-taking deliveries too.

Buttler played for spin from one that didn’t turn. Yasir didn’t mean to do that, there was no bamboozling, it was natural variation that did for Buttler. Then Dom Bess got one that turned and bounced, which we will always see at Old Trafford for wrist-spin.

I did feel England could have been a bit more proactive against Yasir. On the second evening, Joe Root, Buttler and Pope were playing little sweeps to try to hit him off his length but perhaps after Root got out trying to cut one that was too close, England regrouped. 

Yasir Shah can bowl some bad balls but he bowls plenty of wicket-taking deliveries too

They were trying to sit on him and wait for four-balls but they never really came so England might have a look at that balance between attack and defence.

It was noticeable, for instance, that when Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer tried to get after him towards the end of the England innings Yasir did get a little quicker in his run-up and became a bit flustered. But he bowled very well for his four wickets.

Where England have mainly gone wrong in this first Test has been in the field where they have been sloppy. There were three missed chances by Buttler in the first innings — and another dropped catch by Ben Stokes — and they should have bowled Pakistan out first time for 250 at most. Since then, they have been chasing the game.

But Pakistan have three No 11s in what is an old-fashioned line-up — so England will always be in the game in the field during this series. But there have been echoes here of the first Test against West Indies and it will be hard to chase more than 250.

Stokes gave England a chance late on the third day but let’s give credit to Root who rotated his bowlers excellently when Pakistan batted again. He faced a delicate balancing act between taking wickets and saving runs but Root got it spot on by going to Bess early and then turning to Chris Woakes. 

They both struck and, when Bess didn’t get it right after the captain had gone back to him, he turned to Stokes — whose golden arm delivered to set the Test up perfectly.

Stokes gave England a chance late on the third day but let’s give credit to Root who rotated




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