Early strikes put England under pressure in overcast conditions

A lively opening spell from Mohammad Abbas was backed up by Hasan Ali’s double strike as England found themselves in trouble going into the break. Abbas accounted for Mark Stoneman early in the morning session while Hasan struck twice on either side of the drinks break, removing Joe Root and Dawid Malan to reduce the hosts to 72 for 3 at the end of the first session of the opening Test at Lord’s on Thursday (May 24). Alastair Cook, who managed to survive the testing session, was unbeaten on 46, having struck nine fours.

Joe Root’s decision to bat first on an overcast morning didn’t appear to be the right choice as there was plenty of help for the quick bowlers. Mohammad Amir, who began with a maiden, troubled Cook in the opening over. However, he erred with his line and lengths in his subsequent overs, conceding a number of boundaries to Cook. At the other end, Abbas was moving the ball both ways and was also landing them accurately to keep the batsmen guessing. He beautifully set up the dismissal of Stoneman, moving the ball away from the left-hander thrice before getting one back in to find the gap between bat and pad.

While Abbas’s excellent first spell – 6-4-8-1 – posed plenty of questions to the English batsmen, they were able to get away on account of lack of pressure from the other pacers. Amir ended up going for 18 runs off his four overs in his first spell while Hasan and Faheem Ashraf didn’t seem to really bother the pair of Cook and Root, who were laying the groundwork for a partnership to flourish.

However, those efforts were undone when the England captain went after a wide delivery from Hasan and edged it to the wicketkeeper to depart for 4. Cook, who survived a Pakistan review when Faheem rapped him on the pads (umpire’s call saving the batsman), continued to find the boundaries while Malan got a couple of freebies on the leg-side. But a shortish delivery on the off-stump line from Hasan induced an error from the batsman, with skipper Sarfraz Ahmed holding on to his second catch of the innings.

Pakistan’s pacers continued with their probing outside-off lines to Cook, who played and missed multiple times. But he also cashed in on the full deliveries and anything that strayed – his foot-work while playing the shots more decisive than it was during his winter struggles. Jonny Bairstow was solid at the other end, showcasing strong defence. Amir was brought back on just before lunch and Pakistan also introduced legspinner Shadab Khan, but neither managed to end the fourth-wicket partnership which yielded 29, although Amir did flirt with the outside edge of both bats in the final over of the first session.

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