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Babar Azam fluency tames sloppy England on rain-curtailed opening day
Day One Report

Babar Azam fluency tames sloppy England on rain-curtailed opening day

Babar Azam's elegant unbeaten half-century headlined Pakistan's progress on day one of the first Test against England as the hosts struggled to make further inroads after scalping two wickets in the morning session.

Bad light eventually terminated the day's play with a couple of rain interruptions in between allowing only 49 overs. Pakistan were 139-2 at stumps with a rampant Babar on 69 while opener Shan Masood accompanied him on a watchful 46.

Masood rode his luck throughout his undefeated stay at the crease as wicketkeeper Jos Buttler fluffed a stumping chance and a caught behind opportunity on either side of the lengthy rain delay. Off-spinner Dom Bess was at the receiving end of both of these unfortunate occurrences.

Meanwhile, the in-form Babar extended his dream run spree by reaching a 50-plus score in five successive innings.

The 25-year-old superstar currently averages over a 100 in the World Test Championship, the only batsman to do so, and attracted high praise from former England captain Nasser Hussain.

"If this lad was Virat Kohli, everyone would be talking about it but because it is Babar Azam, no one is talking about it," said Hussain during a segment for Sky Sports.

"He's young, he's elegant, he's got all the swagger," he added.

"They keep going on about the 'Fab Four [Kohli, Australia's Steve Smith, New Zealand's Kane Williamson and England captain Joe Root] -- it's the 'Fab Five' and Babar Azam is in that."

England were forced to employ spinners in tandem briefly following the long rain break in the evening considering the fading light in the stadium.

Despite the slow bowlers delivering the ball at rather innocuous speeds, the umpires halted play 45 minutes before the scheduled close, and that marked the final action for the day.

Babar strode out in the middle after skipper Azhar Ali departed for a duck leaving Pakistan in a precarious spot at 43-2.

He began cautiously by shouldering his arms to deliveries outside the off-stump and keeping his natural instincts of going after the ball in check.

Following the lunch interval, Babar came out firing on all cylinders and launched blistering strokeplay that oozed exquisite class.

He stood tall to Jofra Archer's pace and punished him with a remarkable straight drive and a gorgeous backfoot punch to the boundary.

Babar also used his feet against the spin to strike a couple of meaty hits off Bess, both of which just dropped short of the boundary fence and travelled for four runs.

Although Bess was quite ineffective to probe Babar's solid technique, he caused a lot of problems for Masood but the batsman was able to survive given Buttler's uncharacteristic ineptitude behind the stumps.

Masood was beaten by the turn and bounce generated by Bess on two occasions that should have been his parting moment on the crease but Buttler failed to make correct adjustments in time.

His mistakes and ordinary form over the past year will once again give birth to the debate surrounding the potential inclusion of Ben Foakes in his place.

In contrast to Babar's unparalleled fluency, Masood was more reserved and looked vastly improved from his previous trip to England in 2016 where he routinely fell by poking the ball to the slips while leaving his bat hanging around the corridor of uncertainty.

His opening partner Abid Ali did not have the same luck as the 32-year-old was undone by a brute of a delivery from Archer.

The young paceman pushed Abid back with some short-pitched stuff before wrecking his stumps with a tremendous nip-backer.

Chris Woakes then found success by trapping Azhar lbw by another in-swinger, elongating his nightmare run outside Asia where the Pakistan captain averages just over 11 in his last nine Tests.