|Second test, Multan (day one out of five)|
|England 281: Ducket 63 (49), Pope 60 (61); Abraham 7-114|
|Pakistan 107-2: Babar 61* (76)|
|Pakistan Trail by 174 Tracks|
Pakistani batsman Abrar Ahmed took a sensational seven wickets on his debut to beat England for 281 on the first day of the second Test at Multan.
The 24-year-old took advantage of a pitch offering excessive cornering to register 7-114, the best numbers by any spinner on a Test debut for 14 years.
When he knocked down the first seven wickets, he was well on his way to becoming the first bowler to take all 10 in one innings in the Test debut.
But Zahid Mahmood stepped in with the bottom three, still ensuring every English wicket went into a spin.
Ben Duckett balled 63 from 49 and Ollie Pope 60 from 61 for England, who at various stages lost four wickets for 17 runs and four for 50 after winning the draw.
Under such conditions, England may miss an XI that features four pace bowlers and a single front row spinner in Jack Leach.
Still, James Anderson pulled Imam-ul-Haq out for a duck before Leach got Abdullah Shafique behind as well.
Pakistani captain Babar Azam remains, worrying on 61. He added 56 with Saud Shakeel, who attacked in his 32 unstripped as the hosts closed 107-2, 174 behind.
England, 1-0 in the three-game series, are aiming for their first Test series win against Pakistan outside the UK for 22 years.
Multan’s terrain adds a layer of intrigue
It was another messy day in what could possibly turn into a truly memorable series.
While England’s thrilling First Test victory came on insensitive ground in Rawalpindi, Multan’s surface turned from the start and instantly added a layer of intrigue to the contest.
Undeterred, or perhaps even energized by the conditions, England continued with their eagerness to attack with the bat, scoring nearly 5.5 runs over.
But they were checked by enticing bowling from Abrar, who delighted a home crowd that half-filled Multan’s sprawling stadium, a ground that hasn’t hosted a Test for 16 years.
Given the conditions, England’s total could still prove competitive. However, tourists seem to have misinterpreted the pitch. Leach opened the bowling, while setter Ollie Robinson has yet to play.
Their main concern will be how to eliminate dapper Babar, batting at number three after Pakistan made the big call to omit experienced former skipper Azhar Ali.
It was a riveting performance from bespectacled Abrar, who came on after just eight overs and played 22 straight until England were knocked out.
Prolific in Pakistani national cricket this season and controversially dropped from the squad for the first Test, he countered England’s aggression with steals, flicks and snaps.
Nominally a leg spinner, it spins the ball in the opposite direction pushing it off the front of the hand, often referred to as a “carrom ball”.
It was with these deliveries that he claimed his most spectacular scalps. With his fifth ball in Test cricket, he launched a puzzled Zak Crawley with one that came back between bat and pad and then later his sixth wicket stunned captain Ben Stokes. A geometry-defying delivery launched outside of the southpaw’s leg stump and struck through the middle and outside.
In between, Duckett swept lbw, Joe Root stuck on the back foot, Pope swept backwards and Harry Brook played a wild hack only to be caught mid-stroke.
When Will Jacks was on the leg before sweeping, Abrar was on course for 10s and a place alongside three other bowlers in Test cricket’s most exclusive club.
But Robinson skied away from Zahid, who beat Leach and Anderson as they attempted reverse sweeps, leaving Mark Wood unbeaten on 36 of 27 balls.
England lives and dies by the sword
Despite the ugliness of some of England’s dismissals – five were sweeps or reverse sweeps – it’s hard to fault the positivity that has brought seven wins in their last eight Tests.
One could even argue that other English teams, more hesitant, would have been eliminated in half as many races against the brilliance of Abrar.
Duckett and Pope added 79 for the second wicket in just 10.1 overs. Both lived and died with the sweeps and setbacks and both were knocked down by being given to Abrar. Pope added 49 after his reprieve, Duckett just two.
They fell in England’s first mini-collapse, after which Stokes and Jacks shared 61 for the sixth wicket.
Just as England regained the upper hand, Stokes was scrambled by Abrar for 30, while Jacks dropped for 31.
The second slump was quicker and terminal, only briefly interrupted by Wood and Anderson going 36 for the last wicket.
‘Abrar played beautifully’ – what they said
Pakistani spinner Abrar Ahmed, speaking on Sky Sports, via an interpreter: “I won’t forget today. I read the wicket when I first started bowling. I threw a cross seam to start seeing what was needed. Variations were key on this pitch .
“Ben Stokes was my favorite wicket. My favorite player !
England fly-half Ben Duckett at Sky Sports: “I would say it’s level by the minute. We were a few quick wickets away from our day. We’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow morning, but we’re pretty happy overall.”
On Abrar Ahmed: “I can only speak individually and I had my plans for him. He was basically a leg spinner who had a good googly. There was really no mystery but he bowled beautifully today. I’m sure we’ll have our second leg plans, but I’m sure that won’t stop him.”
Former Pakistani fast bowler Waqar Younis on BBC Test Match Special: “England shouldn’t have played so many funky shots. Yes, you score faster if you play all those reverse sweeps, but you also lose wickets faster. On a spinning pitch like this, the England should have shown more restraint.”
Former England spinner Vic Marks on BBC Test Match Special: “England seem to be more interested in the rate at which they score than in their total. Similarly, when they are on the pitch, they are more interested in their strike rate than in the runs they concede.
“Pakistan ran along this last session. I prefer to be in their shoes, they just won on this day.”
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