England build strong lead after solid team effort at Headingley
Root’s side have established a substantial first-innings lead as they bid to square the NatWest Series with Pakistan.
England clubbed together to stay in control of the second NatWest Test and give themselves an obvious opportunity to square the series against Pakistan.
Theirs was a curiously collective effort on a rain-shortened day two at Headingley – where after play did not get under way until mid-afternoon, no one could muster a half-century but all contributed with a degree of significance to a stumps total of 302 for seven.
The first-innings lead is therefore 128, and the salvation of a drawn series – rather than seventh defeat in nine Tests – beckons if Joe Root’s men can maintain their standards here.
Dom Bess, Root himself and Alastair Cook the previous evening all reached 40 but not 50 – the former stumbling just a single short of adding a half-century as nightwatchman to the one he made in defeat on debut at Lord’s last week.
Consolidation was all that was required from England after their dominance on day one.
In the afternoon session, they achieved exactly that despite losing their captain.
Root’s was the only wicket to fall, in aggravating circumstances as he pushed out for an attempted drive at a length ball from Mohammad Amir and edged behind.
It was an anti-climax for most of a full-house crowd, gathered in hope Root might choose his home ground to at last re-discover the knack of making hundreds.
Instead, he went for 45 – and Bess was joined by Dawid Malan.
With the floodlights in use throughout under heavy cloud cover and the threat of rain never far away, the pair calmly went about their work.
Crucially, the ball did not swing as it had for much of Friday – and a fair pitch contained runs if patience was exercised.
It was, and Bess took his rewards with a series of flat-batted front-foot shots square on the off-side.
Malan drove with impressive timing, down the ground and through the off-side, but fell prey to surprise bounce from Amir with the left-armer’s first ball straight after tea – a nasty one which took the shoulder of the bat for an easy catch to slip.
Then Bess had to go too just a single short of a notable achievement, edging an attempted cut at Shadab Khan’s leg-spin to a diving Asad Shafiq at slip for 49 – and so missing out on a second half-century in successive innings at the start of his Test career.
England would have lost three wickets for 20 runs had Hasan Ali held a straightforward catch at midwicket when Jos Buttler, on just four, stabbed one there off a thick inside-edge off Shadab.
It was a poor shot, and a major let-off.
Jonny Bairstow helped Buttler add 48 until he became the sixth consecutive batsman to fall between 20 and 50, in his case at the lower end of the scale when he got a thin edge behind off Faheem Ashraf – to the final delivery before the second new ball was available.
Chris Woakes kept Buttler company next, before he too went caught-behind when Mohammad Abbas this time got that new ball to nip away just enough off the pitch.
Buttler held firm to finish unbeaten on 34, and debutant Sam Curran helped him close out the day – hitting two consecutive boundaries in the last over to post the 300 and ensure he too could go to bed happy after his last day as a teenager.