After the British weather claimed victim to all but 134.3 overs of the second Test between England and Pakistan, Henry Clark picks out six of the key stories from the Ageas Bowl.
Anderson responds to critics
After an underwhelming performance in the first Test of the series at Emirates Old Trafford against Pakistan, questions were beginning to be asked of James Anderson’s future in international cricket. Anderson, who has had injury struggles in recent times, claimed just one wicket in the match on his home ground to spark speculation that his days at the top level could be numbered.
In the days leading up to the second Test, the 38-year-old admitted that he was not at his best in Manchester but was eager to prove that this was not the end of his England career just yet. He responded to the critics in exactly the manner you’d expect a man with 590 Test wickets to; by taking three wickets in the Pakistan innings, and bowling as well as he almost always does in an England shirt.
In just the third over he trapped first Test centurion Shan Masood in front with a vintage, in-swinging Anderson delivery before snicking off Pakistan captain Azhar Ali and Yasir Shah. Jimmy is far from done.
England’s slip-catching woes continue
It wasn’t the most fluent half-century Abid Ali will score in his career but it may well be his luckiest. First, on one, he was shelled by Dom Sibley at third slip. Then Rory Burns failed to cling onto a regulation catch at second slip after the right-hander had reached 21. Considering how hard he had to battle, you can see why he saw fit to take of his lid upon reaching 50.
England’s struggles in the slip cordon are nothing new; they’ve struggled not only in this series but also against the West Indies. In fact, CricViz say that the only Test cricket playing nation with a lower slip catching success rate is Bangladesh. Against the stronger batting attacks of Australia and India, those numbers are the kind that lose you Test matches.
— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 13, 2020
England have had to contend with the loss of regular slipper Ben Stokes for this Test but as both Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton pointed out on Sky Sports Cricket, there is an with the positioning of England’s slips rather than just the personnel.
After Stokes put down a catch in the first Test Atherton said: “You have to argue whether England’s slips are too narrow here, because this is basically going straight to Root, and Stokes is not diving there really. The way that Root was going to catch that ball, you’d think Stokes would be diving at full stretch so I’d argue they’re a bit narrow and can space out a bit further than that.”
Why does the tail always wag against England?
Despite the dropped catches, England’s bowlers worked hard to get their side into a good position by removing the Pakistan top order in quick time. Babar Azam was the last recognised batsman to depart, leaving his side on 158-6 with only Mohammad Rizwan and the tail left.
But from there England’s poor record of removing Nos.8-11 continued as they allowed the visitors to add 78 runs to their total. It’s an issue that should seriously concern England. Even with the express pace of Jofra Archer in the first Test they struggled to dislodge the Pakistan lower order. Against Australia and India, England’s inability to finish an innings might prove even more costly.
More runs for Rizwan
A wholesale revamp of the squad by former captain and coach-cum-selector Misbah-ul-Haq after Pakistan’s disappointing World Cup campaign saw an international recall for wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan. Only recently has he cemented a place in the Test side but judging on his performance in this series he might be around for a while yet.
With partners running out at the other end fast, Rizwan was forced to chance his arm and combined some easy-on-the-eye strokeplay with some old-fashioned muscle over cow corner, farming the strike all the while, to ensure Pakistan reached close to a par score.
Particularly impressive in his 72, which included seven fours, were his leadership skills, encouraging his lower-order partners through the England onslaught. A missed stumping off Yasir Shah in England’s innings blotted his copy book slightly, but his fine glovework in the first Test means it now looks a long way back for the former captain and wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed into this side.
The game’s lawmakers need to see the light
Commentators and fans were left pulling their hair out when, on several occasions, with the floodlights beaming down on the Ageas Bowl, the players were forced off due to poor light.
Both sets of players looked confused and surprised at times as they were led off the field by the umpires following readings taken by the meter. It has led to debate from all corners of the game over potential solutions to the issue with Nasser Hussain and Shane Warne both voicing their support for using the pink ball more in Test cricket.
“If we lower that light meter reading and use a pink ball for Test matches, I think we’ll stay out there a lot longer.”@ShaneWarne has a solution to the ‘bad light’ issue:
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) August 17, 2020
Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Hussain said: “I understand the argument that the red ball can be harder to see under lights, in which case Test cricket should consider using a pink ball more generally if it means the players stay on for longer.”
Whether using a pink ball, allowing players to decide when to stay on or increasing the amount of day-night Tests is the answer, the laws surrounding bad light need to be looked at urgently. After waiting this long for cricket to return, the avoidable lack of it in this Test has been unacceptable.
*That* ball from Azhar Ali
What better way to finish a Test than the captain doing what any good skipper should do and bringing himself on to bowl? He sent down an absolute peach of a delivery too, pitching in-line, gently swinging away and narrowly avoiding the shoulder of Jos Buttler’s bat before both sets of players shook hands. Don’t you just love cricket?