So what do we make of that? Overall I think England have had both a good and a disappointing day. That might sound a little bizarre but bear with me.
For starters, I think England will be delighted that Pakistan chose to bowl first – a decision I really don’t understand. We’ll now be spared from batting last on a wearing pitch. I can only speculate that Misbah thought his best chance of dismissing Cook and Root was early on the first morning.
Personally I think England will be quite happy with 297 all out in the circumstances. Neither Cook nor Root reached 50 but we’re still in the game. It could have been so much worse. What’s more, the runs came from unexpected places: Ballance made an ugly but effective 70 and Moeen made a completely contrasting but just as valuable 63.
What’s more, let’s turn this around and imagine if Pakistan had batted first and made 300. We’d all be thinking ‘game on’. Consequently, I’m not so sure why Ramiz Raja and many other Pakistan supporters are feeling so happy tonight. Perhaps they’re just relieved that they’re still in the game after day one.
Having said all that, England could and should have had a much, much better day. Despite our competitive total – and let’s not forget that the average first Innings score at Edgbaston in test cricket since 2005 is just over 240 – we didn’t bat particularly well at all.
Several players like Cook, Vince, and the aforementioned Ballance and Ali got set, but they all got out without making a match-winning contribution. Furthermore, several players lost their wickets playing poor shots: Root was guilty of over-confidence by trying a somewhat extravagant back-foot drive early in his innings, and Jonny Bairstow carved loosely at a long hop that bounced more than he expected. Meanwhile both Vince and Hales were exposed outside off-stump for the Nth time this series.
My interpretation of today is that both sides got out of jail. England would’ve feared batting last in this test (Cook looked pretty happy when Misbah pulled his surprise at the toss), and then feared being knocked over quickly when Amir took the new ball. Neither scenario materialised.
Pakistan also got out of jail because the decision to bowl first was palpably the wrong one: the pitch played pretty well, there wasn’t a great deal of movement, and it was too blustery for swing bowling. Pakistan then compounded their captain’s error by bowling too short and wide in the first hour. Considering all that, they’ll be relieved that England only made 297. Kudos to Sohail Khan for his excellent 5-96.
Basically, I think today’s play can be spun either way. Both sides can claim some sort of victory. The truth, however, is that it’s probably honours even after an error-strewn day in which neither side covered itself in glory.
Personally however, I think I’d rather be in England’s shoes. Just. As I mentioned earlier, 300 isn’t a bad first innings score in test matches at Edgbaston. Can you see Pakistan making 400 and bossing the game from there? I don’t think I can. And even if they do, they’ll still be facing a tricky chase in the 4th innings.
Thanks for that, Misbah.
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