Wahab fires as England tumble to 242

Tea Pakistan 378 (Misbah 102, Shafiq 83, Younis 58, Masood 54, Wood 3-39, Moeen 3-108) and 92 for 3 (Younis 30*, Misbah 3*) lead England 242 (Root 88, Wahab 4-66, Yasir 4-93) by 228 runs
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Wahab rips heart out of England

Pakistan held the upper hand at tea on the third day of a second Test that had suddenly jolted in their favour after England’s calamitous pre-lunch collapse. It felt like the pivotal morning of the Test, perhaps the series, and for England it turned out disastrously. Evenly placed at the start of the third day at 182 for 3, they were hustled into distraction, bowled out on the stroke of lunch for 242.

Pakistan, granted a first-innings lead of 136, lost three wickets in extending it to 228 by tea with England’s pace bowlers doing just enough to keep their slim hopes alive. Shan Masood surrendered once more to James Anderson and Mark Wood added Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, the latter after a confident half-century that gave their second innings impetus.

Masood is bereft against Anderson, dismissed four times in the last 17 deliveries he has faced from the leader of England’s attack, the latest addition to the list being a regulation edge to the wicketkeeper, Jos Buttler, in Anderson’s first over. He had already been dropped, on 0, by Buttler, in the opening salvo from Stuart Broad.

Shoaib Malik, perhaps anticipating a short delivery from Wood, played on as he drove with non-existent footwork while Hafeez threatened to settle the contest quickly in Pakistan’s favour, pulling Wood confidently to reach his half-century before he drove at the next ball and edged to Joe Root at first slip.

Pakistan, thrillingly opportunistic, remain now powerfully placed to go 1-0 up in the three-Test series. England’s loss of seven wickets for 36 in 18 overs was a reminder of their disarray on their last visit to the UAE when Pakistan’s spinners ran riot. This time it was Wahab Riaz‘s left-arm pace that led the way in an outstanding introductory spell of 9-5-15-3. It was arguably the coolest session of the series, the temperature barely touching 30C, but it was a prodigious display.

Misbah-ul-Haq turned immediately to his two most potent bowlers, teaming the left-arm pace of Wahab with the leg spin of Yasir Shah. They shared the first six wickets evenly, cranking up the challenge when it most mattered, making such short shrift of England that, even with two innings remaining, discussions immediately resurfaced about the persistent batting ailments displayed by the likes of Ian Bell and Buttler.

England had no answer to Pakistan’s double act. Wahab occasionally reversed the ball at pace and Yasir, a dangerous ally, was a bundle of ambition, buoyed by the knowledge that the pitch was drying and scuffing by the hour.

For the first 20 minutes or so, England looked in control. There was no swing for Wahab and Yasir began with a couple of full tosses. But the moment that Root departed for 88, driving optimistically at Wahab to give the wicketkeeper, Sarfraz Ahmed, the first of three successive catches, England crumbled.

Root’s positivity has been one of the hallmarks of a year in which he has vied with Steven Smith as the best batsman in the world, and his runs have disguised England’s failings elsewhere, but this time such eagerness proved his downfall.

As much as his fellow Yorkshireman, Jonny Bairstow, tried to repel the charge, there was no certainty in his resistance and Root’s departure immediately exposed a vulnerable middle order with both Ben Stokes and Buttler looking ill-equipped to deal with the challenge.

Wahab, at 30, is now stating himself as one of the finest fast bowlers in the world, so accomplished these days that one can observe his 14 Tests and wonder how the figure is not so much higher.

Stokes suffered for ponderous footwork when Wahab found a little extra bounce outside off stump, while Buttler is technically tangled and so low on self-belief that his place in the side is surviving because of reputation rather than performance. His desire to stay inside the line persuaded Wahab to switch around the wicket and he hung out his bat without conviction. Another failure in the second innings could be terminal.

Rashid’s dismissal was most culpable. Perhaps unsettled by his first delivery, which he allowed to skip past his off stump by a narrow margin, he had a slog at his second ball from Yasir and was caught in the covers from a leading edge. That dismissal, in particular, smacked of a failure to combat the mounting pressure.

It could have been worse. Bairstow overturned a slip catch by Younis Khan on review – one of those marginal decisions when the camera opposes the instincts of the fielder – but he failed to survive a second review when Yasir threw in a quicker delivery. He rarely exhibited confidence against Yasir, regularly hustled into error when he upped his pace, looking particularly vulnerable on the cut shot.

England’s collapse even had a moment of farce. When Wood was given out by Paul Reiffel, the on-field umpire summoned help from the third umpire, Chris Gaffaney, to ascertain whether the edge had come before Wood’s bat ground into the dirt. Wood then reviewed his decision, either he or his batting partner Broad possessing some outlandish theory that the third umpire might then overturn his own decision. Perhaps it was an inability to accept the truth, a belief that the process had not been properly followed, or a hot sun had finally begun to have its effect.

Broad then did survive another TV verdict, requested by Reiffel, perhaps fortunately, when Pakistan clamoured for a catch off the boot of the short leg, Masood, sweeping. It was a short reprieve. When Imran Khan had Anderson caught off the shoulder of the bat in the next over, it was all over. The hot sun burned down – and England’s bowlers were about to go out in it again far sooner than they had hoped.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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