Sky Sports Cricket pundit Nasser Hussain pulled no punches in his assessment of the England bowling attack after lunch on the first day of the first Test against Pakistan, labelling their efforts in the abridged session “absolutely pants”.
The hosts enjoyed a good first session, taking two wickets and keeping the run rate down, restricting Azhar Ali’s side to 53-2 in 25 overs. However, Babar Azam and Shan Masood cut loose after the break, scoring 68 runs in 16.1 overs to wrest the initiative back. Asked by Sky Sports Cricket host Ian Ward, “Were England a bit flat after lunch?” Hussain was emphatic in his response.
“No, they were rubbish,” he said. “They were absolutely rubbish, to be honest. You can’t say that about this England bowling attack for a long time. South Africa they were brilliant, West Indies they were brilliant, and you’re talking about [Stuart] Broad, [James] Anderson, [Jofra] Archer, [Chris] Woakes, I’m thinking that’s one of England’s greatest ever attacks and they bowled absolutely pants there.
“You’ve got a bloke in Babar Azam who’s their gun player who’s struggling before lunch who’s getting all squared up. That is when you go hard at him. You don’t run up and bowl little leg stump clip ball, four, leg stump clip ball, four, full toss, four, off-spinner comes in, full toss, four. That was poor. That rain came at the right time for England because they got that horribly wrong in that hour.”
Asked whether England were feeling the strain of a fourth Test match in quick succession, with this game following hot on the heels of a 2-1 against England, Hussain said that he felt the reason was more simple.
“Bowlers aren’t machines,” he explained. “They get it wrong and they’ll go in there and regroup and Joe Root’s a very calm individual but I’d be surprised if he’s sitting there going, ‘Never mind, we’ll have a cup a tea and a biscuit and go again.’ He’ll be going ‘We’re better than that. We’re a lot better than that.’”
Hussain also suggested that the rot might have started with Anderson, England’s attack leader, who appeared frustrated after a profligate spell and that the rest of the attack followed his lead.
“Jimmy wasn’t happy,” he said. “He wasn’t happy at that far end. Whether it’s bowling into that gale he doesn’t like, whether it’s that he can’t shine the ball with saliva and it’s not swinging for him, I don’t know why he’s so frustrated, but he set the tone, your senior bowler, and then Archer followed it up with a full toss, leg stump to Shan Masood.
“Your spinner [Dom Bess], one thing he’s got to do in the first innings is give you control. If there’s a gale blowing down the ground, you’re bowling into that. We’re not expecting you to get five for spit but we’re expecting rhythm and control. Bess didn’t give them rhythm and control. They’re not machines, they’ve just got to regroup and go again.”