I love a proper day’s cricket. And I love it when people older than me score test centuries. Yesterday was therefore a winner.
The day obviously belonged to Misbah, the smiling, press-up-ing, Pakistani lynchpin. What a player. What a man. And what a moment when he reached his century – at the ripe old age of 42 – and then did a quick workout on the Lord’s square. Peter Moores would’ve definitely approved … and then suggested a 5k run to really intimidate the opposition.
Thanks to the evergreen Misbah, this test match lived up to its billing on the first day. A score of 282-6 (with one of those wickets being the night-watchman) probably means it’s honours even thus far. Pakistan will be determined to push their score up towards 400, which is probably par on this good surface, and England will still have hopes of dismissing the tourists for less than 350. They do seem to have something of a longish tail.
I’m really pleased that Pakistan showed some fight. Their top 7, with the exception of Shan Masood, is full of good players: Hafeez is reasonable, Azhar Ali has a good record, Younis and Misbah are class acts, and Shafiq looked really, really good. I’m looking forward to seeing what Sarfraz can do today. He looked a real talent in the UAE.
England’s bowlers did ok but overall it was something of a mixed bag I’m afraid – not to mention depressingly samey.
Stuart Broad was down on pace a little – which is becoming his modus operandi on flat pitches. He warned before the match that this Lord’s pitch could be a hard slog for the bowlers, and it’s almost like energy conservation was his main objective. I don’t like this approach. Broad might think that accuracy is best way forward, but he’s half the bowler when he’s operating in the low 80s. Bend your back for heaven sake, Stuart.
Steve Finn was awful again I’m afraid – although he still puts in the odd good performance, I severely doubt he’ll ever be himself again. It’s just so sad to see. He looks a total mess. His technique and mentality are all over the place. Meanwhile, Moeen Ali looked about as threatening as a fluffy long-eared rabbit. I’m rapidly running out of patience.
The only bowlers who gave a good account of themselves were Chris Woakes, who bustled in like a springer spaniel, and the debutant Jake Ball. I was quite impressed with Ball. He looks a bit innocuous as he lumbers in, and he doesn’t seem to have a particularly quick arm, but he managed to generate quite a lot of pace. He looked a whole lot better than the last time I saw him live, when he looked out of sorts and operated at a brisk medium pace. Everyone’s entitled to a bad day I guess.
Although I was a little disappointed that Ball couldn’t recapture his pace with the second new ball – does he lack a little stamina or was he carrying an injury? – he looks a good prospect. With Finn’s career going down the pan, perhaps England have found a readymade replacement?
Meanwhile Woakes is giving the England selectors a heachache. What on earth are they going to do when Ben Stokes and Jimmy Anderson return? Although I’m a big admirer of Stokes, it would be incredibly unfair to drop Woakes as he’s been our best bowler in recent times. His batting also shows great maturity. The Warwickshire man is rapidly becoming indispensable.
With the overhead conditions likely to offer some swing this morning, the first session will be crucial. At some point today, Mohammad Amir is going to bowl to Alastair Cook. It will be the embodiment of evil against the bastion of saintly Englishness. Or so some would have us believe. Let’s just hope the crowd behaves and everyone focuses on the cricket.
Before I sign off, I’d like to wish Michael Carberry all the best in his recovery. My heart goes out to the guy. He’s had little luck with either his health or his career. Let’s hope the prognosis is positive. Worcestershire’s Tom Fell was diagnosed with testicular cancer a few months ago but is now playing cricket again. I don’t know the details of Carberry’s illness, but let’s hope he can make a similar recovery.