Here’s Ali Martin’s report from Karachi:
Rehan Ahmed speaks
I found out the day before the game. Stokes called me to his room with Baz, and told me I was making my debut. I couldn’t sleep last night – couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. It was a big day for my family. [My dad] loved cricket himself, and he backed us all the way – late nights, early mornings, he was always there.
I was very nervous before the first ball. But it was a great feeling. I rushed a little bit in my first spell, though it came out better than I expected. Stokesy was like, ‘I don’t care about the runs, just get me a wicket’. In the second spell I stopped worrying about the runs.
[On his first wicket] I’ve been bowling at left-handers all my life as my brother is left-handed. That’s what I always did to him: bowl a googly, then bowl a legspinner and hope he nicks it! When I first started I could only bowl googlies, so I’m still in the process of learning the art of the legspinner. [On his second wicket] I just love bowling the googly! It’s a great wicket-taking option.
I’ve got years to [develop the legspinner]. I’ve been working on it here [with Jeetan Patel] and I think I’m in a better position than I was before I came here. [Did you ever think you weren’t ready for Test cricket?] Nah, no. The way Baz and Stokesy backed me was all I needed to know.
Stumps: Pakistan lead by 297 runs
That’s the end of another entertaining day’s play. Even on a very slow pitch, there were 11 wickets and 311 runs. England had the better of the day, yet Pakistan are probably on top because of the advantage of batting first on a turning pitch.
Babar Azam top-scored with an apparently effortless 78 before being run out. England’s spinners shared seven wickets, including two for the teenage debutant Rehan Ahmed. He had a fine day, with both wickets coming from excellent bowling rather than batsman error.
3rd over: England 7-1 (Duckett 4, Pope 3) Duckett works Abrar just wide of short leg for a single. It was in the air and almost a chance for Abdullah Shafique; file under ‘they either stick or they don’t’.
The last ball of the day brings another big appeal for LBW, this time against Duckett. Babar goes for the review. Duckett missed a sweep and was hit on the side in front of off and middle stump. This is close…
But not that close: it pitched just outside leg.
2nd over: England 5-1 (Duckett 3, Pope 2) It’s spin at both ends, with the experienced left-armer Nauman Ali sharing the new ball. Ben Duckett waves his first delivery through midwicket for three, with Azhar Ali somehow saving the boundary despite playing an impromptu game of Twister with the boundary sponge.
Pope defends three consecutive deliveries that keep slightly low, then survives a huge LBW appeal after whipping across the line. It was missing leg, but these are good signs for Pakistan.
“I really appreciate the loyalty shown to Crawley, but surely he’s had enough chances now,” says Ollie Benson. “Would Bairstow opening in his place not be a worth a look?”
I suspect even the Bazball boys would think that a bit too funky, especially in an Ashes year. I don’t think he’s ever opened in first-class cricket and he’d be too vulnerable to the new ball.
1st over: England 0-1 (Duckett 0, Pope 0) “Pakistan have been motoring along at just under 4rpo, which in days of yore (ie earlier this year) would be a rollocking rate,” says Andy Bradshaw. “But suggests that England have got right in their heads, they know they have to score a lot quickly so can’t just plod along at 2rpo because England can knock that off in a session. Which makes taking wickets easier & the chances of England win more likely. This Stokes bloke is good.”
WICKET! England 0-1 (Crawley LBW b Abrar 0)
Zak Crawley goes for a fifth-ball duck! He pushed defensively on the back foot at a whistling, fizzing legbreak from Abrar Ahmed that hit him plumb in front – so plumb that he doesn’t bother wasting a review. Crawley missed that by a mile.
Here come the England openers. We should have time for three overs before the close.
“A jobsharer as keeper isn’t a bad idea at all,” says John Starbuck. “You could have Bairstow and Pope alternating each innings (Duckett in reserve), which means more rest for one of them as a batter and reduced number of injuries. They thus become the Keeping Unit with specialised support and training. You should email Baz about this.”
It feels a bit gimmicky to me, though I appreciate I’m a bit of an old fart, stuck as I am in April 2022.
Leach ends with figures of 31-2-140-4, while the teenage debutant Rehan Ahmed took two for 89. Rehan bowled some loose balls, as you’d expect, but there were plenty of jaffas too, especially googlies. Overall England have done superbly to restrict Pakistan to 304 on such a pudding of a pitch, though it should start to turn more as the match progresses.
WICKET! Pakistan 304 all out (Abrar b Leach 4)
Jack Leach finishes the innings with a ripper. It curves into Abrar Ahmed then straightens sharply to hit the top of off stump. Abrar stands wide-eyed in his crease for a few seconds, trying to work out how he’s been bowled. He should be smiling, because those last two wickets came from deliveries that turned a fair way.
WICKET! Pakistan 300-9 (Agha st Foakes b Leach 56)
That’ll do! Lovely bowling from Leach, who lures Agha Salman to his demise. Agha came down the track and was beaten first by the flight and then by the turn. Ben Foakes did the rest.
78th over: Pakistan 299-8 (Agha 56, Wasim 7) Agha is fine to continue.
77.4 overs: Pakistan 299-8 (Agha 56, Wasim 7) Even at the end of a long day/tour, Wood is breaking 90mph with most of his deliveries in this spell. Agha is surprised by a short ball that follows him and rams into first the collarbone and then the (unprotected) side of the neck. There’s a break in play while he is treated.
77th over: Pakistan 297-8 (Agha 55, Wasim 6) Agha walks down the track and chips Leach stylishly over the off side for four. A single off the fourth ball gives Wasim two balls to survive; he’s beaten by the first… and then belabours the second back over Leach’s head for six! Now that’s how a No10 should get off the mark.
“I feel like this tour might be ending a couple of England careers as well as starting them,” says Phil Harrison. “For example, once Bairstow is fit again, the only way you keep Brook in the team is if Foakes drops out and JB takes the gloves again. Similarly with Leach: if Ahmed continues to look the more dangerous spinner (and given that he can bat a bit too), I can well imagine Stokes deciding to go with him plus a bit of Root from now on. It’s a tough old game at the top.”
It’d be a helluva call to play an 18-year-old leggie against Australia; I’m not sure we’re at that stage yet, although you never know with Baz n Ben. I’ve been thinking about Foakes and I can’t make my mind up. Ideally I’d want Bairstow to stay at No5 and concentrate exclusively on his batting, especially after his astonishing form in the summer. For now I think I would put Brook back on the cab rank, but it’s a very tricky decision.
One argument in favour of playing them all is that Stokes could drop down to No7, which is more suited to the statement cameos in which he has specialised since becoming captain. I suppose the moral of the Bazball story is: all bets are off, orthodoxy be damned. It wouldn’t completely shock me if they ended up having a wicketkeeping jobshare between Bairstow and Pope.
76th over: Pakistan 286-8 (Agha 50, Wasim 0) With the tail finally exposed, Mark Wood returns to the attack. But it’s Agha Salman who’s on strike, and he protects Wasim by defending the first four deliveries. A single off the fifth takes Agha to another impressive half-century from 83 balls. He struggled at times against Rehan Ahmed but has looked really good against everyone else.
Wasim plays his part by defending a nipbacker from Wood.
75th over: Pakistan 285-8 (Agha 49, Wasim 0) That was a useful knock from Nauman, a punchy 24-ball 20, but he’ll feel like he’s left a few more runs out there.
WICKET! Pakistan 285-8 (Nauman c Stokes b Leach 20)
Another soft dismissal. Nauman sliced a slog-sweep back over the bowler Leach’s head, and Stokes ran round from mid-off to take a comfortable catch.
74th over: Pakistan 278-7 (Agha 44, Nauman 20) Joe Root replaces Jack Leach (28-2-119-1). He goldenarmed Mohammad Rizwan in the afternoon session, and England would love another freebie before the second new ball.
They almost get a second run out after a mix-up between Agha and Nauman, who was ballwatching. Leach’s off-balance throw from mid-off was slightly wide, which meant Foakes had to fetch the ball before breaking his stumps. That gave Nauman just enough time to get home.
73rd over: Pakistan 278-7 (Agha 43, Nauman 19) Dead rubber, dead pitch, old ball: it’s fair to say the game is meandering a touch.
Another shortish delivery from Rehan Ahmed – he is getting tired – is heaved through midwicket for four by Agha.
72nd over: Pakistan 272-7 (Agha 37, Nauman 19) Darkness doesn’t descend as quickly in Karachi, so we should get another hour’s play. Agha Salman looks in the mood to go all night; he walks down the track to drive Leach handsomely over extra cover for four. Beautiful batting.
After a few singles, Nauman makes it a double-figure over with an emphatic reverse sweep for four.
71st over: Pakistan 261-7 (Agha 31, Nauman 14) Nauman drags a short ball from Rehan through midwicket for four. I wonder if Rehan is getting a bit tired, mentally rather than physically. Saying which, Nauman tries to drive the next ball and edges it wide of slip.
It looks like the spinners will bowl until the second new ball is available. England’s seamers really are struggling here. It reminds me a bit of a similar dead rubber in New Zealand in 1991-92, when most of the quicks had niggles and Phil Tufnell and Graeme Hick bowled forever. David Lawrence was still giving everything as the game meandered to a draw on the final evening, with tragic consequences.
70th over: Pakistan 257-7 (Agha 31, Nauman 10) Agha sweeps Leach firmly round the corner for four more. He resourceful and dogged and looks a good player, certainly for a No7.
Nauman hacks a single to deep square to move into double figures.
“On the Ashraf review, I thought there seemed to be a very tiny period of deviation from flat shown on the UltraEdge,” says Colin Garwood. “Were my eyes deceiving me or do the rules require a clearer spike?”
I don’t think it’s set in stone but, yes, generally it needs to be a bigger spike rather than a murmur.
69th over: Pakistan 250-7 (Agha 26, Nauman 8) A short ball from Rehan is savaged for four by Agha, an excellent shot. He looks more comfortable when he’s attacking the leggie, in fact. Rehan Ahmed’s figures are 20-2-79-2, and since lunch 15-2-42-2. Verily, he’d have taken it.
68th over: Pakistan 246-7 (Agha 22, Nauman 8) “Your opponent was Geoffrey Chaucer?” says John Starbuck. “Who won?”
I’m bisorwen ich assumede sin waſ ain rhetorical questfōre-dēde.
67.3 overs: Pakistan 245-7 (Agha 21, Nauman 8) Nauman pulls the ball straight into the helmet of Pope at short leg. There’s a break in play while he has a concussion test, so the umpires have called for drinks.
Nauman is not out!
Nauman pushed at a delivery that turned down the leg side, with Foakes clasping the ball at the second attempt. There was a scratch as it went past the bat – but there’s nothing on UltraEdge so England lose another review. They have one left.
ANOTHER ENGLAND REVIEW FOR CAUGHT BEHIND AND I’M NOT REALLY SURE WHY I’VE GOT CAPS LOCK ON IT’S ONLY A NO9 BATTER IN A DEAD RUBBER AFTER ALL I MEAN MAYBE IF IT WAS REHAN AHMED BUT WHAT’S GOING ON HERE
more than any other time it’s Leach to Nauman, and I haven’t a clue what happened. You’re welcome!
67th over: Pakistan 244-7 (Agha 21, Nauman 7) Another thing to like about Rehan Ahmed is his calm demeanour. He has celebrated his wickets, of course he has, but it’s been relatively low-key. If I had taken a Test wicket at 18, I’d have called for a microphone to give an Oscar-winning speech.
The new batter Nauman Ali sweeps consecutively deliveries for four and then three. He’s a decent Test No9, with an average of 24 and a top-score of 97, albeit against Zimbabwe.
WICKET! Pakistan 237-7 (Faheem LBW b Rehan 4)
This is turning into a memorable first day for Rehan Ahmed. He’s picked up his second wicket, with Faheem Ashraf beaten all ends up by a googly from round the wicket. The umpire took a while to give it, and Faheem reviewed, but replays showed it was hitting off and middle halfway up. Well done, kiddo.
66th over: Pakistan 236-6 (Agha 20, Faheem 4) Faheem finally gets off the mark from his 21st delivery, pinging a reverse sweep for four off Leach.
“That footage of Warnie with little Rehan is quite a thing,” says Phil Harrison. “It’s made me feel quite emotional. Must admit, it’s frying my brain a bit that England now has a Test cricketer who was born when I was already in my thirties. And he’s really good too.”
It’s crazy isn’t it. When I was Rehan’s age my toughest opponent was Chaucer, not Babar Azam.
65th over: Pakistan 231-6 (Agha 19, Faheem 0) Rehan is really into his work now. Since lunch his figures are 13-2-30-1.
“Because it is clearly far too early to tell, this is the perfect time for wild speculation and needless pressure building,” says David Horn. “If we were, rather cruelly, to create a scale of international leg spinners starting at one end with Mason Crane and ending at the other with Shane Warne, I wonder how far young Rehan will go? If he ends up somewhere around two-thirds of a Stuart MacGill, that would be truly remarkable.”
Och yeah, you’d take that. MacGill was such a good bowler, even if he was the victim of possibly the most contemptuous shot in cricket history. Boxing Day Test 2003, second ball: off you pop.
ASHRAF IS NOT OUT! There’s nothing on UltraEdge, so Faheem Ashraf survives. It was such a good googly, which straightened past Ashraf’s defensive push. Foakes thought there was an edge, so did Root, but the technology suggested otherwise.
ENGLAND REVIEW FOR CAUGHT BEHIND! It was a gorgeous googly from Rehan to Ashraf, and Ben Foakes is sure it’s out.
64th over: Pakistan 230-6 (Agha 18, Faheem 0) Agha, who looks more comfortable against the orthodox spinner, sweeps Leach firmly through square leg for four and then steals a single to mid-on. Stokes’s throw shattered the stumps – and the stumpcam in fact - but Agha was comfortably home. There’s a break in play while the camera is repaired.
63rd over: Pakistan 225-6 (Agha 13, Faheem 0) Agha is not enjoying himself against Rehan. He almost offers a return catch and then survives a big LBW shbout after pushing around a googly. It turned a long way and would have missed leg stump.
62nd over: Pakistan 224-6 (Agha 12, Faheem 0) Faheem survives an appeal for a catch down the leg side off Leach. There was a big deviation but I’m pretty sure it was off the thigh pad. Replays show that’s exactly what happened.
61st over: Pakistan 221-6 (Agha 8, Faheem 0) Rehan bowls a nice maiden to Faheem Ashraf. He has been able to settle into a nice spell here. His first five overs before lunch went for 37; since then he has figures of 11-2-28-1, with the emphasis on the second 1.
“Nice bowling Ray!” says Ben Foakes, which sends my mind off into the world of Mr Inbetween. Has there been a better TV series since the Sopranos? Nah mate.
60th over: Pakistan 221-6 (Agha 8, Faheem 0) With Babar gone, Jack Leach returns in place of Mark Wood. Stokes must be really struggling with his knee. Agha comes down the track to crunch a couple into the leg side, the only runs from the over. Pakistan bat pretty deep in this game, so England aren’t into the tail yet.
59th over: Pakistan 219-6 (Agha 7) Babar batted beautifully, making 78 from 123 balls, and looked nailed-on for a century. That’s another bonus wicket for England, the biggest of the lot.
WICKET! Pakistan 219-6 (Babar run out 78)
Well well well. Babar Azam has been needlessly run out! Agha turned Rehan into the leg side and set off for a single, with Babar reluctantly accepting the call. Brook threw flat and hard to Foakes, who collected the ball in front of the stumps and then broke the wicket as he fell forward.
Foakes disturbed the first bail while collecting the throw – but that didn’t matter because the second one stayed on, and Foakes removed it with Babar just short of his ground. Had Foakes knocked both bails off before he had the ball, Babar would have survived.
58th over: Pakistan 217-5 (Babar 77, Agha 6) Mark Wood, god bless him, is going to bowl one more over. England’s seamers really are on their last legs here. Anderson is a quadragenarian, Wood is shattered, Stokes is injured and Robinson has a bad tummy.
Wood starts with a wide, which means he’ll have to bowl an extra ball. He walks back to his mark with the expression of a man who lovingly made four perfect souffles and then dropped them while dishing up.
“I’ll tell you how slow this pitch is,” says Nasser Hussain on Sky. “Ben Foakes could stand up to Mark Wood here.” Wood is giving everything, desperately trying to get blood out of the stone, but there’s nothing there.
57th over: Pakistan 216-5 (Babar 77, Agha 6) Ben Stokes, who hasn’t bowled since his 74-over spell in the first Test, is warming up and looks set to replace Wood at the Knacker’s Yard End.
Rehan finds Agha’s outside edge with a nice legbreak, but the ball drops well short of slip. Agha gets in a pickle with the googly later in the over, bat-padding it in the air on the leg side. There was no short leg this time. The kid is doing pretty well here – not as good as Ian Salisbury on debut, better than Chris Schofield.
56th over: Pakistan 216-5 (Babar 77, Agha 6) There’s a suggestion of reverse for Wood, but Babar is as solid as ever in defence. Wood has such a good record outside England: 15 Tests, 54 wickets at 24.53. Barring statistical freaks, that’s the lowest average for an England bowler overseas since John Lever swung his last in 1981.
At home Wood averages in the forties, though that’s partly down to a dreadful series against South Africa in 2017 when he was bowling at half ratpower.
55th over: Pakistan 214-5 (Babar 77, Agha 5) Agha, who struggled against Rehan before tea, waves a shortish delivery through point for three.
54th over: Pakistan 210-5 (Babar 76, Agha 2) Mark Wood starts to Babar Azam after tea. He signals his plan by setting a 3/6 field, and confirms it by ramming the first ball into the middle of the pitch. It doesn’t get up and Babar sways out of the way.
Babar takes the pull on later in the over, swatting Wood in front of square for four. This pitch is so slow.
This is just lovely: Shane Warne watching a 13-year-old Rehan Ahmed
Feel Good Inc
The eagerly awaited Australia v South Africa series started with a bang at the Gabba, where 15 wickets fell on the first day.
53rd over: Pakistan 204-5 (Babar 71, Agha 1) Time for one last over from Rehan Ahmed before tea. Salman Agha top-edges a sweep into his arm; then he’s beaten by a very good legspinner. As Waqar Younis says on commentary, it’s the threat of the googly that leads to tentative strokes like that.
Rehan beats Agha again with the penultimate ball of the session. That’s a terrific over, and he walks off proudly alongside Mark Wood. His figures of 12-0-59-1 don’t entirely do justice to an encouraging debut.
England have had a decent day, finding some weird and wonderful ways to take wickets on a very slow pitch. But Babar Azam is still there, 71 not out and entirely imperturbable. See you in 10-15 minutes for the evening session.
52nd over: Pakistan 203-5 (Babar 70, Agha 1) Wood’s pace is down a bit, generally in the high-80s rather than the mid-90s, though that is entirely understandable in the circumstances. He’s such an admirable, selfless bloke; if he’s not giving it, he hasn’t got it.
He still has enough to produce a sizzling 91mph yorker that is really well defended by Agha Salman. Wood oohs and aahs and then goes back to his mark for more. He really is the Tigger of English cricket.
51st over: Pakistan 202-5 (Babar 69, Agha 1) Rehan Ahmed changes end to replace Root, who is hooked despite taking Rizwan’s wicket. (Not that he had much to do with it.)
Babar has played Rehan pretty respectfully, only really going after the bad balls. Two singles from the over.
“Just realised that an England bowlers younger than my daughter has just taken a Test match wicket,” writes Steven Pye. “Time for me to investigate retirement homes, I think.”
And if you want something to read during the upcoming tea break, here’s Steven on England’s famous win in Karachi 22 years ago.
50th over: Pakistan 200-5 (Babar 68, Agha 0) Mark Wood replaces Rehan Ahmed, who has ODI figures on his Test debut: 10-0-56-1. I’m about as qualified to talk about legspin as I am to talk about hair care, so I’ll defer to the Sky commentators. In short: Rehan turns his googly more than his leggie, his length has been a bit hit and miss (understandably), his front arm drops a bit early, and he has all the time in the world to figure it out.
There’s a soupçon of reverse for Wood, though nothing that would trouble Babar. After five dot balls, Babar flicks a boundary behind square. Beautifully timed. Man his bat is one big never-ending middle.
49th over: Pakistan 196-5 (Babar 64, Agha 0) Root was laughing his head off when Stokes took that catch, knowing it was a filthy delivery that deserved anything but a wicket.
WICKET! Pakistan 196-5 (Rizwan c Stokes b Root 19)
A huge bonus for England just before tea! Rizwan charged Root and clunked a dipping full toss high into the leg side. Stokes ran round from deepish mid-on to take a well-judged catch. That’s an Andrex-soft dismissal, and Rizwan stomps off in disgust.
48th over: Pakistan 194-4 (Babar 63, Rizwan 18) Rizwan is sweeping everything. He drags Rehan off middle stump – he’d have been in all sorts of bother had he missed – for one of four singles in the over.
47th over: Pakistan 190-4 (Babar 61, Rizwan 16) Joe Root replaces Jack Leach and starts around the wicket to the right-handers. Three singles from the over.
Meanwhile, Ben Duckett has left the field after hurting his ankle in the previous over.
46th over: Pakistan 187-4 (Babar 59, Rizwan 15) Rizwan reaches a long way to sweep Rehan for two, with Duckett doing well to save the boundary. His left ankle got stuck in the pitch as he did so, and he’s limping slightly.
Rehan has figures of 9-0-52-1. We need a Bazball converter to see what they are worth in a normal Test team.
“I wonder if you will get to sit your grandchildren down in the run up to future Christmases,” begins Brian Withington, “and regale them with anniversary tales of the time you took over the Guardian OBO from the blessed Tanya Aldred just as the legendary bowler Rehan Ahmed took his first ever Test wicket? Here’s hoping…”
For reasons you really don’t want or need to know, it’ll be a rare old Christmas miracle if that happens.
45th over: Pakistan 182-4 (Babar 57, Rizwan 12) Rizwan, the cricketing personification of perkiness, sweeps Leach for four and then whips another through midwicket. He’s raced to 12 from 12 balls.
44th over: Pakistan 174-4 (Babar 57, Rizwan 4) A bit of a comedown over for Rehan, with Babar pulling a short ball for four. It’s all part of his education, same as it was for Shane Warne to be panelled round the SCG by Ravi Shastri on his debut.
“In the 41st over you pointed out that Leech’s average was better under Root than Stokes,” says Tom Holdsworth. “Might that demonstrate the point of Bazball: strike rate matters more than average?”
It might… if the strike rate wasn’t also worse under Stokes (80, as compared to 67 under Root). But I should stress that there are reasons for the discrepancy. Leach played on a number on Bunsens under Root.
43rd over: Pakistan 168-4 (Babar 51, Rizwan 4) The nicest thing about Rehan’s wicket is that was deserved. Shakeel didn’t slap a full toss to midwicket; he was unsettled by the googly and then pushed nervously at the next ball. And crucially, as David Gower and Nasser Hussain are pointing out on Sky, the length was spot on.
Meanwhile, Jack Leach (remember him?) bowls an excellent over… until Rizwan sweeps firmly for four to get off the mark. Wasn’t much wrong with the delivery.
42nd over: Pakistan 162-4 (Babar 50, Rizwan 0) Earlier in the over, Babar waved a full toss from Rehan for a single to reach another serene half-century: 74 balls, 6x4, 0xhope for England.
By the way I said Pope’s catch was very good. I was wrong: it was outstanding.
“Good morning Rob, from a balmy Las Palmas,” says Kim Thonger. “It will be 22C this afternoon here. Lovely day for cricket, and I discover that various communities on the larger Canary Islands have set up cricket clubs to play Twenty20, with marvellous names such as Scorpio Warriors and Pagoda Kings. Jimmy Anderson could thrive here in semi-retirement. Nice and warm, occasional cloud cover at both ends of the day, and a lovely bit of humidity for late swing. Read all about it here.”
Never mind Jimmy, I’ll be practising a bit of wobble seam in the corridor during the team break.
WICKET! Pakistan 162-4 (Shakeel c Pope b Rehan 23)
Rehan Ahmed has his first Test wicket! He beat Shakeel with the previous delivery, a gorgeous googly, and as a result Shakeel then pushed tentatively at a fullish legspinner. He got a big inside-edge onto the pad, with the ball looping up in the air. Pope swooped forward from short leg to take a very good one-handed catch. It went upstairs but there’s no controversy with this one.
What a delightful, charming moment. Rehan Ahmed became England’s youngest men’s Test cricketer a few hours ago; now he’s their youngest wickettaker.
41st over: Pakistan 161-3 (Babar 49, Shakeel 23) It’s notable that, despite their popular bromance, Jack Leach’s record under the captaincy of Ben Stokes (avge 44) is much worse than under Joe Root (avge 32). There are a few reasons for that, not least the fact he hasn’t played on any vile turners under Stokes, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Isn’t it? Oh.
40th over: Pakistan 160-3 (Babar 48, Shakeel 23) Rehan Ahmed was a bit short in his first spell, which went for 37 from five overs. He’s noticeably fuller this time, too much so when Shakeel drives through extra cover for two. That aside it’s a pretty good over. I still can’t quite believe we are watching an 18-year-old English legspinner playing Test cricket.
Thanks Tanya, morning everyone. I timed that well: Rehan Ahmed is coming on for his second spell.
They pause for drinks, and I’ll hand you over to the master, Rob Smyth, to take you through to stumps. Just in case the Test doesn’t go to day five, wishing you all a very merry Christmas, with an especially happy one to my mum and dad who are waking up this morning in a new house for the first time in 40 years. Thanks for all the messages – bye!
39th over: Pakistan 157-3 (Babar 47, Shakeel 21) Leach bowls one ball then presents it to Stokes. To say, who knows? But he’s sent back on his way without consulting the umpire. A fistful of singles.
38th over: Pakistan 153-3 (Babar 45, Shakeel 19) Wood continues to charge in, well into the nineties mph. Sweat gleans on his forehead and he wipes it over the ball. Shakeel pulls and Rehan fields. We move on.
37th over: Pakistan 151-3 (Babar 44, Shakeel 18) Leach will have a sore shoulder by this evening. Over number 17 under his belt, not even half way through the second session of day one. Babar casually ticks off a run.
“James Walsh….asks if anyone else has ever splashed out on seeing an all-conquering team on an off day,” writes John Cox.
”Not quite but my mother, then a teenager living near Lords and with a crush on Denis Compton, took advantage of some early children-free-after-lunch deal to watch the great man seven times during his famous 1948 season, and used to boast that she never saw him score a run. Five times the opponents were batting, once DC came in in the last over and spent the night on 0 not out, and finally she got to see him face a ball, only to witness his only duck of the season.”
36th over: Pakistan 150-3 (Babar 43, Shakeel 18) The cameras focus on Keaton Jennings, who hasn’t played a Test on this tour. Athers tells us that he has just earned his MBA from the University of Manchester. Very impressive, and such a nice guy as well. A maiden from Mark Wood.
35th over: Pakistan 150-3 (Babar 43, Shakeel 18) Shakeel stretches with the front leg, as if trying to take in one more stair in haste, and sweeps Leach to the rope.
34th over: Pakistan 144-3 (Babar 42, Shakeel 13) Mark Wood for his second spell, this time from the pavilion end. Starts with some full balls, finishes with a bouncer that bounces so low that Shakeel is practically squatting as he ducks it.
Ben Elkington writes, from under a duvet in Leicester: “I have an innocent and probably sleep-befuddled question: given the lack of Test cricket in Pakistan for so long, the grounds have all seemed relatively empty. Is this down to pricing, the home team performance or ambivalence to test match/red ball cricket? (Apologies if this has been covered previously, wasn’t sure.)
And, like the ITV World Cup coverage, I’m concerned that I’m lying here thinking, “yeah, KFC for breakfast is alright in December, isn’t it?”
Hi Ben. I think the grounds filled up well during the day in Rawalpindi and Multan – not sure about Karachi. Our man on the ground, Ali Martin, strokes his beard, “Not sure the reason here, maybe series lost … good few sensibly hiding in the shade at the back of the stands.”
33rd over: Pakistan 141-3 (Babar 40, Shakeel 12) A maiden from Leach which includes a beautifully choreographed whipping off of the bails by Ben Foakes as Shakeel goes for the sweep. Feet were firmly anchored in the crease, but sweetly done.
”Ashamed to admit that I shabbily missed the start of play;” admits Brian Withington, “and the awarding of debut cap to Rehan Ahmed by Nasser - quite the moment I gather, and so lovely to see his Dad involved. Nice words from Azhar Ali too. What’s that, you say? Must be some dust in the eye …”
32nd over: Pakistan 141-3 (Babar 40, Shakeel 12) Babar plonks his front leg forward and with a frosty-crisp punch dispatches Robinson past a sprawling mid-on. The next ball nibbles in and with a waft of the glove, Babar lets Shakeel know that reverse swing is happening.
31st over: Pakistan 136-3 (Babar 36, Shakeel 12) Leach prowls in, Shakeel largely unbothered. Stokes has a long chat with him as he makes the long walk back to his fielding position on the boundary.
30th over: Pakistan 135-3 (Babar 35, Shakeel 11) Stokes fiddles and finesses his field.
“Hello again Tanya.” Robert Lewis, hi! “Not Bazball, but I was at the SCG in 1976 in the series mentioned recently on OBO where the Windies were rocked by pace and decided to go with a 4-man attack. I remember a highly miffed Michael Holding, then around 20 years old, walking so very slowly back to his mark when a decision went against him.”
29th over: Pakistan 134-3 (Babar 35, Shakeel 10) Ooof Babar charges Leach, over the top, not quite all there but it falls safely out of reach of a slowly reversing
The link to the PCB youtube page (thank you!):
28th over: Pakistan 130-3 (Babar 32, Shakeel 9) In Manchester it is sleeting in the dark, in Karachi, the sun shines. Shakeel content to play Robinson back until swivel-pulling his penultimate ball for four. And another, a full toss disappears, off-driven with panache.
“Tucked under my duvet with a hot water bottle and a coffee, but still freezing, of course,” writes Archie Sparrow. “I found that session really enjoyable. Dead pitch, yes, but we’re still able to make things happen. I remember waking up for the first session of the first test and rubbing my hands in a Mr Burns-esque fashion. It’s only gotten better since then. Is it finally time, as England fans, that we can admit we’re actually really quite good at this test cricket thing?”
Wash your mouth out Archie!
27th over: Pakistan 122-3 (Babar 32, Shakeel 1) Root awaits at first slip, Pope (?) at leg slip, as Leach changes ends after lunch. A shout of “Pakistan Zindabad” livens up the still pretty empty ground. There are beautiful canopies over the stands – something English grounds are going to have to think about with the climate crisis. The lack of shelter at The Riverside caused all sorts of issues during the ODI on the UK’s hottest day last year.
John Starbuck, hello! “I didn’t make the start but picked up the progress via the mighty OBO. No kids to fuss over, but I have had to stroke the cat, then go out in the frost to the garage and switch off my charging car. Meanwhile, my wife has finished the gingerbread men (with holes for hanging on Xmas trees) and is onto baking the mince pies, for her family do, though shortened by Covid, alas. Still, we all have responsibilities.”
26th over: Pakistan 120-3 (Babar 31, Shakeel 1) Robinson polishes off his over, fragmented by the wicket off Azhar on the stroke of lunch.
“Last time i sent an email,” writes Daniel Ironside, “it was swiftly followed by a leaking water pipe catastrophe. This has now been blamed on the elves. England subsequently won that marvellous test match so just hoping that for superstitions sake the whole thing doesn’t need to be repeated.” What are pipes on the altar of Bazball?
Two cups of coffee in, all is well. Dog has a full tummy, paper boy is on his round, Ian Ward is in full lounge lizard, leg resting on knee, on the Sky sofa.
James Walsh is back, and this time I’ve spelt his name right (apologies), “I’ve only seen one Test of the nascent Bazball era in person - and it’s the only one they’ve lost so far, Lord’s v. South Africa in the summer.
“There was a surreal lack of jeopardy, though most of the stand where I was sat was more interested in the champagne corks hitting the outfield than the cricket.
“Has anyone else out there ever splashed out on an otherwise all-conquering team on one of their rare off days?”
Jimmy Anderson is talking to Nasser. “ A decent session, we bowled brilliantly, the short ball tactic worked well. This surface is two paced so it is difficult for the batter to know whether to take it on or not. Woody has been bowling cross seam as well which should set it up for reverse-swing later on.”
I have news Sam Fox! Not TMS, but the guerilla cricket link.
Lunch - Pakistan 117-3
25.2 overs: Pakistan 117-3 (Babar 30) A timely wicket for England, in the last over before lunch. Robinson does the business again and Azhar falls just short of fifty in his penultimate Test innings. It’s been intriguing watching young Rehan Ahmed as he goes through his tricks. A pause, a sandwich, a sit down, and he can start again. Time for me to put the kettle on and flat-line coffee. Back shortly!
WICKET! Azhar c Foakes b Robinson 45 (Pakistan 117-3)
Off Azhar’s glove and a super catch by Foakes, diving to his left and almost sucked into the gloves an inch off the ground.
REVIEW! Azhar c Foakes b Robinson 45 (Pakistan 117-2)
Soft signal is not out, but Foakes is very keen. So is Robinson.
25th over: Pakistan 117-2 (Azhar 45, Babar 30) Stokes has a long chat with Ahmed at the end of his run, whose ten to two feet are planted firmly in concentration. He drops short with his googly and Azhar tucks in, though in slightly unbalanced way. The next is fuller, straighter, better. Seven from the over, and lunch bubbling on the hearth.
24th over: Pakistan 108-2 (Azhar 40, Babar 26) Robinson is back after being off the field. Causes immediate trouble, as Azhar nearly plays the ball straight to the waiting silly mid=on , a thick edge slices through second slip for four, then hits him on the arm.
23rd over: Pakistan 102-2 (Azhar 35, Babar 26) A full toss from Rehan Ahmed and Babar sweeps as if wafting a fan for four. And another boundary as Babar eyes up the googly and tucks in with knife, fork and spoon. Will Stokes give him another over, or is this enough for a first taste?
22nd over: Pakistan 93-2 (Azhar 34, Babar 18) Azhar, who has the most runs ever at No. 3 in Tests for Pakistan (4055), looking increasingly comfortable.
Hello Robert Lewis! “Morning Tanya, from a sunny and mild Istanbul. Yesterday I caught the end of the autumn, finding parasol mushrooms in the forest in the west of the city. Perhaps Stokes is planning on a bowl himself, to bolster the slightly weaker attack?” Actually he said that at the toss, he’s going to have to put in the hard yards.
21st over: Pakistan 89-2 (Azhar 31, Babar 17) Ahmed again, his arm lovely and high, delivered with a snap of the back foot, the leg flicked out in a backwards attitude . Babar drives, edges, and the ball flies through an empty gully. The last falls too full, Azhar drives, another boundary.
20th over: Pakistan 79-2 (Azhar 26, Babar 12) Azhar plays a perpendicular bat and sends Leach towards the rope where it is cut off. A bit of this and that picked off by Azhar.
18th over: Pakistan 74-2 (Azhar 21, Babar 12) Ahmed gets through his over in the time it takes me to pick up my biro from under the sofa. Two from it
18th over: Pakistan 72-2 (Azhar 20, Babar 11) A frankly glorious dance and smack by Babar for four off Leach.
Rehan Ahmed's first over!
17th over: Pakistan 66-2 (Azhar 19, Babar 6) He looks nerveless, dries his hands again in the dust, and is suddenly ready. The first ball floats up, a leg-break , and he’s off! Pakistan are busy, they don’t want any spell cast. Azhar swivels and shovels him for four. And suddenly it’s done. He fiddles with his collar: nicely done.
16th over: Pakistan 59-2 (Azhar 12, Babar 6) Azhar bursts a four through where Leach’s hands might have been, if he’d reacted quickly enough in his follow through.
15th over: Pakistan 52-2 (Azhar 7, Babar 4) Pakistan play pauper and prince within two balls to Mark Wood – the first a clueless ugly swipe by Azhar, the next a wristy, effortless pull for four by Babar .Wood’s judicious short balls proving a test for Babar – as the pictures point out on Sky, his chest on stance makes it quite awkward to evade the bouncer.
14th over: Pakistan 47-2 (Azhar 6, Babar 0) Did I mention that Leach is bowling in sunglasses? Prescription sunglasses, I guess. He continues to strangle Azha. Rehan Ahmed dries his hands in the dust. Soon? Babar, as Nasser Hussain reminds us, does struggle to pick the googly.
“Morning Tanya,” Hello Andy Ravenscroft!
“Thanks for doing these in such ungodly hours. Pitch looks slower than my dear departed grandad driving up hill, whilst towing a caravan. Stokes showing again he has a plan though, 2 down somehow! Looking forward to seeing the new leggie.”
13th over: Pakistan 46-2 (Azhar 5, Babar 0) Excellent bust-a-gut bowling by Wood ,and England have got rid of the tricky Masood. It brings in Babar, who, I’m told, loves batting at Karachi. The last time Babar batted here he got 196.
WICKET! Shan Masood c Leach b Wood 30 (Pakistan 46-2)
The short ball works! What have you done Shan? He pulls, top-edges and Leach at fine leg takes it by his ankles and says thanks very much.
12th over: Pakistan 46-1 (Shan 30, Azhar 5) Azhar breaks the strangle-hold with a lovely back-foot four off Leach.
Another night with a teething baby means les sleep but also that I can catch the test match before the day begins,” taps William Vignoles. “There’s a weird unique joy of watching a test from some far-flung place in the small hours - even last year’s horror moments of Axar Patel skirling England were weirdly enjoyable. Maybe it’s just innate pessimism but this England attack feels slightly underpowered?” Good work with the baby – those nights are long, but overseas cricket definitely makes them more bearable. As for England, much depends on Robinson’s tummy and Ahmed’s debut…
11th over: Pakistan 42-1 (Shan 30, Azhar 1) Azhar is hit on the arm by a lightning Wood bullet, and the teams take drinks while the physio comes on with the magic spray. News that Robinson is off the pitch with bad guts, which could make this a long morning for England’s seamers. Perhaps an earlier debut than there might be for Rehan Ahmed? Oh that’s a lovely fluent pull by Shan, tucked between two fielders for four.
Sam Fox, Finbar has an overseas link for you. Hope it works!
10th over: Pakistan 35-1 (Shan 25, Azhar 1) Oh, England go for an unlikely looking appeal to the last ball of Leach’s over, at least from my sofa….it turns out to be closer than it looked but still umpire’s call as Shan misses a reverse-sweep. An eventful over, with Shan dancing and pinging a boundary over long on and tingly reverswe-sweep for three. Azhar off the mark to his eleventh ball.
9th over: Pakistan 27-1 (Shan 18, Azhar 0) More short stuff from Wood, who tumbles over in his follow-through with the exertion. Shan picks up a single from a tickle round the corner, but Azhar remains scoreless. A good effort
“Good morning Tanya,” hello Mark Dexter!
“My understanding is that Pakistan is a cricket-mad country. So why are there less people in the ground than would vote for Liz Truss if there were a general election tomorrow?” The grounds tend to start empty and fill-up during the day. We had an email in the last Test from (novelist) Kamilia Shamsie who said that Pakistan were not a nation for early starts. But you’re right, lots of noise on the coverage but not much evidence of many people.
8th over: Pakistan 26-1 (Shan 17, Azhar 0) Masood gently tucks into Leach, with a leaned, extra-cover boundary and three more. The sun is shining brightly on the hard oatmeal pitch.
7th over: Pakistan 19-1 (Shan 10, Azhar 0) Wood is whistled up to the coal face. Runs in with customary vigour, and even squeezes a couple of bouncers off a dead deck.
6th over: Pakistan 18-1 (Shan 9, Azhar 0) Two more close fielders jostle in for Azhar A;i’s penultimate Test innings. He looks eager to get off the mark, a bit frisky, but no immediate joy. A wicket maiden for Leach, who may look to exploit this low bounce.
“Sorry to rub it in for anyone stuck in freezing Britain, but I have a day laying in the sun by the red sea ahead of me, which can only be enhanced with the dulcet sounds of try TMS team in my ears. Does anyone have the overseas TMS link to share?” Really sorry to break it to you Sam Fox, but I don’t think there is a TMS link – in previous Tests people have followed it via the PCB website. But I am extremely jealous of your sunshine. If any OBO-ers can help with any other info, please let me know.
WICKET! Shafique lbw Leach 8 (Pakistan 18-1)
Umpire’s call it is, so off Shafique must go! Done by one that skids on and plops him on the knee.
REVIEW! Shafique lbw Leach 8 (Pakistan 18-1)
Shafique makes a last minute call to try to overturn the umpire’s finger…
5th over: Pakistan 18-0 (Shafique 8, Shan 9) Put the Christmas tree lights on, a sparkly companion to the OBO. I actually bought some new ones this year – multi-coloured in homage to my 70s-80s childhood. White suddenly seemed a bit boring. Anyway, back to Karachi, where Robinson hasn’t found much movement on a hot morning, with the kites (I think) circling overhead. Root the only slip. A maiden.
4th over: Pakistan 18-0 (Shafique 8, Shan 9) An immaculate off-drive by Shafique, head over bat, beats Ben Stokes to the boundary. Lovely.
3rd over: Pakistan 17-0 (Shafique 8, Shan 8) An immaculate off-drive by Shafique, head over bat, beats Ben Stokes to the boundary. Lovely.
Hello James Walsh“Morning from under the duvet in freezing Tooting. I’m sitting a very clingy Vizler, whose family are off to Belfast for in-law Xmas this early morn.
This looks a much more balanced lineup from Pakistan. And England look like they’re missing Jimmy already!”
2nd over: Pakistan 12-0 (Shafique 4, Shan 8) Shan on the attack straight away, with two nimble-toed hits over the top off Jack Leach – taking the new ball at the other end.
1st over: Pakistan 4-0 (Shafique 4, Shan 0) Robinson with the new ball, and a controlled squirt brings Shafique four. Funny for Jimmy to see the future from the bench – a bit like reading your obituary before you’ve died.
“morning Tanya!” Hello Finbar Anslow. “Freezing over here. Blooming fire’s gone out, now have to trudge out for kindling .... or I might just get back in bed .... saw Brian Close play at Taunton. Think he might have also been one of the oldest to play for England? Or maybe he’ s up there with longest span between first and last test?”
Wilfred Rhodes was the oldest at 52 but Close’s span must be one of the biggest.
Time for a quick cup of tea – play starts at 5am. While you’re waiting, here’s a lovely piece on Azhar Ahmed. Or check out the goings-on in Brisbane:
Pakistan XI - a debut for Mohammad Wasim Jnr and a farewell for Azhar Ali!
Pakistan: Shan Masood, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (captain), Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Salman Ali Agha, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Nauman Ali, Abrar Ahmed.
Four changes: in come Azhar Ali in his final Test, slow left armer Nauman Ali, the new Yorkshire captain Shan Masood and 21 year old allrounder Mohammad Wasim Jnr. Mohammad Nawaz, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Ali and the injured Imam-ul-Haq are on the bench.
England XI - a debut for 18 year old Rehan Ahmed!
England: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (captain), Ben Foakes (wkt), Rehan Ahmed, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Mark Wood.
Gloves to Foakes, Pope bats, Ahmed on debut. Anderson rested, Jacks on the bench.
Pakistan win the toss and will bat
On a dry pitch, the coin falls the right way for Babar at last.
Good morning from Baltic Britain!. But scrap the weather, who is this coming over the hill? It’s Rehan Ahmed, in a Test cap, England’s youngest ever male Test cricketer, at 18 years and 26 days, 23 days younger than Brian Close – and he never gave up anything without a fight.
Ahmed, a Leicestershire leg-spinning allrounder, has played just three first-class matches but his talent has been bubbling away – with the Under-19s, with the Lions, with Leicestershire and now with England.
With the series already won, Ben Foakes also plays, replacing the resting Jimmy Anderson, and removing the gauntlets from Ollie Pope, who will just bat. Will Jacks steps off the merry-go-round..
Change too for Pakistan. They unearthed a gem at Multan – wrist-spinner Abrah Ahmed. But they must say goodbye. This will be stalwart and former captain Azhar Ali’s final Test.
“I retire from international cricket as a fulfilled cricketer who ticked most of the goals he had set for himself,” he said in an emotional press conference. “Not many cricketers go on to lead their countries, and that I was able to captain Pakistan is a matter of great pride for me.
“From being a kid who started as a leg-spinner to becoming a mainstay in the Test batting lineup, I had the loveliest moments of my life that I will cherish forever.”
Play starts at 5am GMT. Set the clocks.