Paying the price for posting substandard first innings score: Arthur

England continued to dominate Pakistan on the second day of the Headingley Test. Despite the early wicket of Joe Root, the English batsmen knitted partnerships to convert the overnight deficit of 68 runs into a 128-run lead at Stumps on Day Two, and that too with cloud cover around, which lasted throughout the day.

Due to persistent rain, the play had resumed in the afternoon session. Naturally, Pakistan pacers were expected to make the most of the conditions. However, none of them, save Mohammad Amir, got the ball to move – in the air or off the surface – prodigiously. Or simply say in the manner in which it is done in Leeds.

But, Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur was of the opinion that the visitors “bowled quite well as a unit” and his side was simply behind England because “we did not get enough runs in the first innings”.

“If you win the toss and bat, you’ve got to put the opposition under pressure. You’ve got to score 300 plus,” said Arthur, when asked what went wrong for Pakistan during the first two days of the match.

“Batting was the way to go,” he said, defending Sarfraz Ahmed’s decision to bat first. “If we had seen through the first hour and a half, batting became much easier in the afternoon. We are now paying the price for posting a substandard first innings score,” he added.

After putting up a remarkable show on a Lord’s wicket that assisted seamers in the first Test, Pakistan were abysmal with the bat on Day 1 of the second Test. Their opening partnership did not add any runs and lasted for only two overs. Seven of their batsmen were back in the pavilion with the scoreboard’s run column reading a paltry 79. At one point, they were expected to be wrapped up under 100.

However, a well-crafted 52-ball 56 by Shadab Khan took them to 174. Their highest partnership was of 43 runs. And, what is disconcerting for any Pakistan fan is the fact that it was between Shadab and Hasan Ali.

“In terms of what we need to do good in the second innings, we need to go back and do what we did at Lord’s,” said Arthur. “We showed a lot of patience and a lot of discipline. We committed to attack, we committed to defense. On wickets like this we speak three words – discipline, intent, and technique. We want them to attack and defend with intent. But, we need to make those decisions a bit clearer. In the first innings, we were a little bit indecisive. You need to see off the ball in the first 40 overs. If you do that, the next 40 overs become a lot easier.”

After a fine display in the field at Lord’s, Pakistan’s fielders seemed off-colour. They leaked two runs via overthrows earlier on in the day. Later, when Pakistan had an opportunity to bounce back after Amir and Shadab removed Dawid Malan and Dominic Bess within four overs, Hasan dropped Jos Buttler off Shadab’s bowling. Buttler remained unbeaten on 34 at close of play.

When the Pakistani head coach was asked whether he believed things would’ve been different had Hasan grabbed that chance, he replied: “Yes, I do. We wanted England’s lead to be around 120. But, that is now where we sit at the moment. We thought if we get 120 [as deficit], we can put 300. Which means 180 [as a target for England]. We needed to hang on to that chance. We need to hang on to every chance.”

Pakistan last won a Test series in England in 1996. It was the first time in 22 years that Pakistan eyed a series win while playing the final Test of a series in England. Many did not give Sarfraz’s men a chance to win the Lord’s Test. And on the basis of their emphatic win at the ‘Home of Cricket’, Pakistan entered the ongoing Test as favourites.

So, can the visitors now stage a comeback and script history? “Yeah, of course,” said Arthur. “We are certainly not going to think tonight that we have been played out of the game. We need to wrap them up quickly and we need to bat really well in the third innings.”

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