Playing his first Test in nearly three years, James Taylor led the way for England with a defiant unbeaten 74 to put his team in a reasonably strong position at the end of the second day’s play. In a tough day at office, Taylor was the most impressive Englishman on show, proving to be particularly impressive against spin, moving back and forth with conviction. Taylor featured in a fourth wicket partnership of 83 with Jonny Bairstow (37 not out), who also showed good defiance, as England finished the day on a strong 222 for 4, trailing Pakistan by 12 runs in the first innings.
Taylor’s partnership with Bairstow was the defining one of the day. When the two joined forces, England were in a spot of bother at 139 for 4. There was pressure for sure – with Taylor on a comeback, and Bairstow perhaps playing for his spot in the team. Both applied themselves commendably under the conditions. Things weren’t easy out in the middle, as evident by the fact that England managed only 218 runs in the entire day. Further, the partnership between Taylor and Bairstow, which lasted for nearly 30 overs, came at a rate of 2.82. Significantly, they did not lose another wicket.
Taylor was particularly impressive against the spinners. In fact, all of his six fours came against the spin of Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar. Taylor did have a couple of anxious moments during his stay in the middle. They was a review off Rahat Ali’s bowling, as a ball went closely between bat and pad. Then, after having crossed his fifty, he jabbed one onto his toes, and the ball almost went back and hit the stumps. There were question marks over Bairstow’s technique, particularly against spin, but he survived, and also blossomed with five fours in his innings.
England’s defiance was led by skipper Alastair Cook earlier in the day. In his trademark style, he tried to bore out the Pakistanis with one defensive stroke after the other. But, he struggled against Yasir, inside edging him twice before lunch, and was lucky to survive. But, the leggie had his man immediately after the break. Yasir had Cook caught at short leg, one short of a half-century. It was the third time in three innings that Yasir had dismissed Cook, but not before the England captain surpassed his tally for most runs in a calendar year.
England were dealt with a massive blow when their key batsman Joe Root experienced a rare failure. He drove loosely at Rahat, and was caught by the keeper. Ian Bell is not known for occupying the crease for long periods. But, he also dug in, and batted for over 200 minutes scoring at a strike rate of 25. His patience eventually ran out as he was outfoxed by Yasir, who had him stumped for 40. At the top, Moeen Ali’s woes continued as he top-edged a slog sweep into the hands of slip. It wasn’t a great start for England, but thanks to Taylor and Bairstow, they ended the day on a high.
--By A Cricket Correspondent