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Pakistan in the driving seat to win first Test as England collapse on day two

Ben Stokes stood, some way outside his crease, transfixed as a perfect seaming delivery from Mohammad Abbas from around the wicket beat him on the angle and smashed into the top of his off-stump. England’s Mr Incredible was, for once, totally incredulous.

It was the moment Pakistan, brimming with intent and enthusiasm, confirmed their domination of a second day of this first Test that is turning into a nightmare for England.

And it was the moment, beyond question, that proved Pakistan represent a massive step up from West Indies in the second half of this unique summer and have already left England in grave danger of their sixth successive defeat at the start of a Test series.

What a shocker of a day this was for England and what a brilliant one it was for a Pakistan team who already look more than capable of extending their unbeaten Test series record against them, home and away, beyond an 11thyear.

It had started well enough for England when Jimmy Anderson struck with the sixth ball of the day to remove what appeared to be the biggest obstacle standing in their way in the brilliant Babar Azam.

But by the time Stokes was dismissed and England were floundering on 12 for three in reply to Pakistan’s 326 the tables had been completely turned and Joe Root had again looked like a captain searching in vain for answers.

It got worse for Root, too, as he could not make the most of a reprieve on review after being given out before scoring to Shaheen Afridi and became the fourth England wicket to fall in a dramatic finale to an eventful day trying to cut the leg-spin of Yasir Shah. England, on 92 for four, still 234 behind and a batsman light, have it all to do.

This was Pakistan cricket at its brilliant best, their ebullience and passion demonstrated by the roars of approval from their team, reserves and coaching staff that echoed around an empty Old Trafford whenever a landmark was reached or a wicket taken. Even those members of their enlarged squad watching from their hotel balconies offered loud support.

That was in total contrast to the silence when England were in the field epitomised by the struggling figure of Jos Buttler whose body language behind the stumps betrayed the lack of confidence that seemed to drain away from the whole team.

It all started to go wrong for England again straight after lunch when Root inexplicably brought himself on to bowl in partnership with Dom Bess in advance of the second new ball and the pressure on Pakistan was instantly released.

Before then England had enjoyed a productive first session, Anderson and Stuart Broad combining for a spell of 11-8-11-2, including six maidens in a row, as England took three wickets before lunch and conceded just 48 runs in 26 overs.

But then came an even worse spell for Root and England than their post-lunch misery on the first day as Shan Masood found a perfect partner in Shadab Khan to take the Test away from England with a brilliant partnership of 105 for the sixth wicket.

They were given a big helping hand. The parsimony of England’s big two was then replaced with inaccuracy as Anderson and Broad were flayed at more than five an over during their combined eight overs with the second new ball.

There was apparent disharmony, too, as Broad screamed at Jofra Archer when he perceived him to be slow to react at long leg to a pull from Shadab that was always destined to bounce in front of him.

Most bizarrely, Root, who had spent most of last winter over-bowling Archer, now ignored him until even Dom Bess had taken his turn with that new ball when the situation was crying out for a burst of extreme pace. When Archer did finally bowl he claimed two late order wickets to add to that of Abid Ali on the first morning.

Not that anything should be taken away from Masood, who averaged 17 here four years ago and was dismissed cheaply no fewer than six times in six innings across two series by Anderson before re-modelling his technique with English coach Gary Palmer.

Now Masood played close to the perfect opener’s innings, his obduracy on the first day replaced by fluency and then aggression as he smashed 16 off a Bess over on his way to 156 and his third century in successive innings against three different sides.

How costly those two misses by Buttler when Masood was on 45 on the first day now looked and how significant was the decision of Richard Illingworth to decide Masood had inside edged a Broad delivery yesterdayonto his pad when he was on 46. Technology just about backed up the umpire.

Much has been made of Pakistan’s attack and how they now justified the hype. Rory Burns lasted only four balls before he was undone by the left-arm pace of Afridi and Dom Sibley was equally inept when faced with the probing accuracy of Abbas.

When Stokes also had no answer to the English conditions specialist Abbas and Root fell to the big turn of Yasir England were down and almost out.

At least Buttler and Ollie Pope held on during a torrid spell that also saw an impressive introduction for the 17-year-old pace sensation Naseem Shah but with Chris Woakes next man in at seven Pakistan are sensing a notable victory already.

How Buttler, who also dropped Yasir off the luckless Bess, needs to prove today that he really is capable of replicating his white-ball dynamism in the ultimate arena. His Test future, and England’s hopes in this opening match, could depend on it.

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