Misbah’s ton leads

A magnificent century from captain Misbah-ul-Haq put Pakistan in a strong position in the first Test before a late England counter-attack on an attritional first day today.

Misbah, 42, had never before played a Test at Lord’s, but his unbeaten 110 appeared to have steered his side to a strong position.

But two late wickets from Chris Woakes to add to the pair he took before lunch gave England hope after they had lost the toss and toiled in the field.

Misbah ul-Haq hits out during his century today.
Misbah ul-Haq hits out during his century today.

This was Pakistan’s first match at Lord’s since the spot-fixing scandal of 2010, and it was fitting that Misbah, who has done so much to rehabilitate the team since that crisis, was the hero of their return.

He celebrated his landmark by dropping to the turf and pushing out 10 press-ups, his team-mates applauding from the pavilion balcony as the rest of the ground rose to him.

While his fine partnership of 148 with Asad Shafiq was ended by the persevering Woakes three overs before the close, nightwatchman Rahat Ali then falling for a duck to the final ball of the day, the tourists will resume on Friday morning well placed on 282-6.

After Woakes had got rid of Pakistan’s opening pair, both caught by Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball’s first Test wicket – Azhar Ali trapped lbw by a full in-swinger – had seen Pakistan reduced to 77-3.

It brought skipper Misbah together with 39-year-old Younis Khan, giving the partnership a combined age of 81.

And as the pair have so many times before, they first held the England attack at bay and then, with infinite patience, began to take control.

Misbah’s half-century came up off 81 balls, and while progress had been slow after lunch – 36 runs were scored in the first hour – acceleration came as England’s attack wearied through the long afternoon.

Younus had looked untroubled before clipping an innocuous delivery from Stuart Broad straight to Moeen Ali at midwicket for 33.

But Misbah pushed on, his one big scare coming from a misjudged single when Gary Ballance’s throw from close in missed the stumps at the striker’s end with the batsman metres short of his ground.

As he had in the series last winter the captain attacked the spin of Moeen after tea, taking him for 16 runs in five balls with two conventional swept fours and two reverse-sweeps.

His century came up with a single run away down to third man, from 154 balls and in approaching four hours, making him the oldest man to hit a Test ton since 45-year-old Patsy Hendren in 1934.

With James Anderson ruled out by the selectors as he recovers from injury, Nottinghamshire’s Ball became the 671st man to play Test cricket for England, and on a flattish pitch he immediately impressed.

Taking the new ball with county team-mate Broad, he thought he had Shan Mashood’s wicket with his second delivery, only for the lbw referral to confirm umpire Joel Wilson’s original decision that the ball had pitched just outside leg stump.

Bowling close to 90mph at times, his first spell of six overs went for 22 runs, and when he returned after lunch he trapped Azhar with a ball just clipping the edge of leg stump.

As the ball softened and what little spice there was in the pitch leached away, he found life harder in the afternoon, ending the day with figures of 1-51 off 19 overs.

But it was Steven Finn who once again struggled the most, his rhythm off and his pace down as he went wicketless for 86 runs from 21 overs.

With Moeen all too easy to score runs off – his seven overs cost 46 as Misbah targeted him – it was left to Woakes to carry the threat.

The Warwickshire seamer’s dismissal of Shafiq with the second new ball for 73, edging an attempted leave behind to Bairstow, gave England late cheer before Rahat slashed wildly to throw away his own wicket.

Source: (BBC)

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