Pakistan’s Tough Resistance

Ben Jones analyses how Pakistan hung on, even as they stood at the brink of series defeat.

In 2018, India had lost the first Test. They went southward, to Lord’s, where they were met with terrible weather and a piping hot England attack. After the first day was rained out entirely, England emerged on the second afternoon/evening with edge-seeking missiles in their back pocket. Anderson turned Murali Vijay inside out, and it went downhill from there. In a session – 35 overs, all told – India were all but certain of going 2-0 down after two Tests, in the second of their high profile overseas trio of tours.

On Day 2 in that Lord’s Test, England’s quicks found 1.7° of swing movement, and 1.1° of seam movement. The ball was moving prodigiously, operated on a string by highly skilled practitioners in the shape of James Anderson and Chris Woakes. In those situations, collapses happen – more often than they don’t, if we are honest. But that was the passage of play, that second day under damp London skies, that an Indian side demonstrably better than their opponents, lost the contest for the summer.

Small passages of play can have a big influence on a series. 

Today, that level of finality hung in the air like the damp southern rain. Pakistan started off at 126-5, with a full blown collapse very much on the cards. Even in bowler-friendly conditions, getting rolled for 160 would have been broadly fatal to their chances in this match, and the series as a whole.

In that morning session – delayed by rain, and taking place entirely in the afternoon, Pakistan resisted. The swing and seam (1.4° and 0.7°) were not quite at the same levels applied on that day at Lords, but equally, India were not already five down when that pressure began. This was a full on, proper challenge, that Pakistan would need to meet face on were they to scramble out of this Test with a chance of travelling home with the spoils.

Babar showed admirable responsibility. He put the drive away, depriving himself of his most prolific scoring shot, his iconic stroke. He has never made this many runs in a Test innings with so few of them coming through the covers. Babar was acknowledging the situation, responding to the unique challenges of the day, and succeeding.

The previous day, he’d been leaving around 22% of his deliveries; today, that rose to 33%. He was eagerly following the template of Smith, Labuschagne, Kohli, drawing the bowlers from outside off, removing the dangers therein, and persuading them to bowl at his pads and his hip. 41 of his 47 runs came on the legside, the darkside. He scored no runs through the V at all, the fist time in his career he’s made this many runs, with none of them in that zone. Those wrists were being used for evil, finding gaps and rotating the strike, rather than for their usual beauty. He denied himself, and eventually only fell to an absolute jaffa from Stuart Broad, the man of England’s summer and the in-form bowler.

Mohammad Rizwan stood alongside Babar in that first session, showing the value of a wicke-tkeeper at No.7 who can handle themselves with the bat. His average of 38.50 is the highest for any Pakistan keeper (from the slim qualification of minimum 10 innings), and it showed. He played intelligently, and to the situation. In his first fifty balls at the crease, he played 26% false shots, a figure significantly above the global average. He wasn’t in control. And yet, the nature of the challenge seemed to bring about a sort of ingenuity that you don’t always see from top players, players set in their ways. Rizwan is a versatile player who can score in various areas, but he loves to score straight in Test cricket. Before today, about 20% of his runs came in the ‘V’; in this knock, that’s fallen to 8%. Playing straight is presented as a virtue, but in a match like this where the ball is swinging and seaming, it’s a cursed approach. Rizwan played late, and played square – and played well.

As the day developed, and the tension slackened, Rizwan was able to play with a touch more freedom. By the end of play he was attacking half of the deliveries bowled, absorbed in every micro ball of trying to send the ball to the boundary, then send himself to the other end to rotate the strike with precision. His dot-ball percentage dropped from 84% in the first session of the day, to 67% in the second. England were unable to maintain the pressure that they had at the start of the day, and they fell into old habits. The field spread, and Rizwan managed the task with aplomb.

Pakistan are 1-0 down in this series, holding the trophy, as it were. They have drawn the last two series they’ve played in England and would not turn their noses up at a third, given their position. Hanging in, banking on the weather, and bringing the passage of time on side is a savvy move, and one which gives them a more than decent chance of yet again levelling the series in the final match of the summer.

Ben Jones is an analyst at CricViz.

Source: cricviz.com

Pakistan’s Tough Resistance