Jos Buttler and Dom Bess saved England from a three-day defeat against Pakistan with a memorable rearguard stand at Lord’s.
Buttler, fresh back from the Indian Premier League for this NatWest Series opener after 18 months out of the Test reckoning, joined forces in the unlikeliest of circumstances with debutant number eight Bess to give England hope where there was none.
Realistically, after being previously outplayed in every department, the best outcome for the hosts is surely still only respectability – but following a determined 68 too from captain Joe Root, the unbroken century stand for the seventh wicket has at least ensured Pakistan must bat twice to prevail.
A stumps total of 235 for six, and still-vulnerable lead of just 56, looked fanciful in the extreme when Buttler (66no) and Bess (55no) were thrust into damage-limitation still 69 runs behind on 110 after England had lost four wickets for 19 runs.
Pakistan had barely put a foot wrong for eight sessions. They still have no reason to reproach themselves – but after England at last showed signs of life, the tourists may yet have to prove they too can be resourceful to close out victory.
125 – The Buttler-Bess stand is no record-breaker yet, but in the context of this match and series it is already a remarkable dual intervention which has more than doubled England’s second-innings total.
That was the description from former incumbent Michael Atherton on Root’s occupation of the short-leg position while trying to lead his team. Harsh or not, there has been evidence in this match that Root’s captaincy is very much a work in progress – although as pointed out recently by another who has tried, Nasser Hussain, the most important starting point is not decisions at the toss, fielding positions or bowling changes but making match-defining big runs again to cement his authority.
An unexpected day four, thanks to Bess and Buttler.