In case you had forgotten, Pakistan once again reminded you what it means being a Pakistan fan. After dominating all sessions but one, Pakistan could still find itself in a precarious position. After eight sessions, England were 68 behind with only four wickets in hand. After nine, they were 56 ahead with as many wickets in hand. After eight, Pakistan were eying a “three days” win – a feat no visiting team has achieved at Lord’s in 106 years. After nine, they were thinking about fending off another fourth-innings collapse.
It goes without saying that Pakistan are poor chasers. Their history is full of fourth innings collapses. You don’t need to go as far as Sydney 2010 or Galle 2009 to see their collapses. As recently as October last year, Pakistan failed to chase 136 against Sri Lanka at a venue, Abu Dhabi, where they had never lost before. In May last year, they were bundled out for 81 chasing 188 against a weak West Indies side in Barbados. On the same tour, they chased 32 in Jamaica but after losing three wickets.
England with an unbeaten 125 runs partnership for the seventh wicket between Jos Buttler, recalled into the Test side after one and a half years, and Dom Bess, the 20 years old debutant, has forced Pakistan to think about averting another collapse. Even Pakistan are aware that if the partnership is stretched further, they could be in serious trouble.
Jos Buttler caused a few problems for Pakistan bowlers
The maximum target they are looking to chase is “150,” according to Asad Shafiq. “We are looking at 150 and ideally below that. We will not be happy to chase over anything over 150,” said Shafiq.
“We’ll take confidence from the Ireland chase definitely. Two new guys helped chase down that target and the way they batted gave them confidence as well as the team. We know how to stabilize after a few early wickets.”
A fortnight ago in Malahide, Pakistan were reduced to 14-3 before Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam came to rescue them with a 126 runs partnership in a chase of 160. But one of the two architects of that chase, Babar Azam, will come to bat only if absolutely necessary. Pakistan will be hoping that they don’t reach a position where South Africa were in Sydney in 2009 when the captain Graeme Smith had to walk in with a broken hand.
The final session of the play though should not undermine their overall performance. The pitch had started to ease out and Lord’s was basking under the sunlight yet Pakistan managed to take six wickets before England went into the lead. The highlight of the day was Mohammad Amir producing conventional and reverse swing together to break Jonny Bairstow’s defence. That after finding edge of Dawid Malan in the same over.
Mohammad Abbas once again showed why he is so difficult to deal with and why he remains a threat going forward in this series. He trapped the two most important England batsmen Alastair Cook and Joe Root leg-before-wicket to take his career tally to 38 wickets in seven Tests. No Pakistan bowler had that many wickets at this stage of his Test career.
Abbas' ability to move the ball both ways makes him an exciting prospect
Pakistan would want him to add a few more wickets tomorrow when they take the second new ball, which will be due after two overs. He remains their best bet to remove Bess, who has frustrated Pakistan with an unbeaten 55. If Pakistan don’t strike with the new ball, the match will be slipped further.
Sarfraz Ahmed might have to look at other ways as well to make sure the tail does not wag. Even though Shadab Khan took two wickets – he removed Mark Stoneman with a delivery that kept very low and had Ben Stokes caught at midwicket after luring him for a pull – he appears to be the weakest link in the bowling lineup. Pakistan also missed the trick by not using him from the nursery end or giving part-time tweakers, such as Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail, a go.
There were few moments in the day, when Pakistan missed an experienced spinner in Yasir Shah. A spinner has played a vital role in Pakistan’s last two wins at Lord’s. In 2016, it was Yasir who ran through England to hand Pakistan a win whereas ten years prior to that it was Mushtaq Ahmed with a five-for when Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart were threatening to take the game away. Shadab tomorrow needs to emulate one of them to keep the target in a chase-able range.