Stokes strikes as England prepare for Old Trafford chase

By John Skilbeck 8 August 2020 2
Stokes strikes as England prepare for Old Trafford chase

Ben Stokes provided the spark as England stayed in the hunt for victory in a gripping first Test against Pakistan.

Picked just as a batsman for this match due to a niggling thigh injury, Stokes made a frustrating duck in England's first innings, but he stepped out of the slips to take the ball and pick up two prized Pakistan wickets.

Day three at Old Trafford ended with Pakistan on 137-8 in their second innings, 244 runs ahead of England.

However many more runs Pakistan add on Saturday morning, England will face a tough task to chase down their target, but they still have hope.

The home side had hope at the start of this day too, and they also had Ollie Pope, but England's new middle-order star added just 16 to his overnight score to be out for 62.

From a precarious 92-4 at the start of play, England were dismissed for an underwhelming 219, thankful again to Stuart Broad (29 not out) for some lusty lower-order hitting as the tail was soon exposed.

Pope fell to a scorching delivery from Naseem Shah, the ball leaping up off the pitch and catching the splice of the bat, arrowing low to Shadab Khan at gully.

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah removed home captain Joe Root on day two and began to make his presence felt again, bowling Jos Buttler (38) and Chris Woakes (19) either side of having Dom Bess snaffled at slip by a leaping Asad Shafiq.

Fellow leg-spinner Shadab Khan had Jofra Archer caught behind off the glove, before pinning last man James Anderson lbw.

Armed with a 107-run first-innings lead, Pakistan found England's pace attack troubling, with Shan Masood following his first-innings 156 with a duck, nibbling at a ball slanting across him and down the leg side from Broad, clipping through to Buttler.

Bess had Abid Ali caught in the deep by Woakes, who then made a key impact himself by having Babar Azam taken at slip by Stokes and Azhar Ali trapped leg before.

Dom Sibley got rid of Asad Shafiq (29) with a smart run out, but Pakistan were beginning to stabilise when Stokes entered the attack.

He claimed a wicket with his eighth delivery when he got Mohammad Rizwan (27) out lbw, then Broad had Shadab Khan in the same manner.

And shortly after 19:00 local time (18:00 GMT) Stokes struck again, a short ball accounting for Shaheen Afridi, the batsman lobbing one up for Rory Burns to take a safe catch.

Tall order for England

Even if England roll over the final two Pakistan wickets cheaply on Saturday morning, they face a tough task to win this match. Pakistan's pacemen were sharp first time around, and their spin pair are likely to be increasingly hard to play the longer this contest continues. It may need one individual to step up and produce a telling innings to energise those around him.

Root cause

Root made 254 and 71no against Pakistan on this ground four years ago, and it may be time for the skipper to step up again. Failing that, Stokes looks in the mood after his wicket burst, and will want to make amends for his first-innings batting failure.

Caught in a spin?

Bess kept Pakistan's batsmen on their toes without carrying anything like the threat the opposition spinners posed. It will take some effort for England to get on top of the prolific Yasir and his apprentice Shadab but failing to do so could be fatal to their prospects.

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John Skilbeck

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