Former England skipper Alastair Cook is reluctant to accept the writing is on the wall for his side despite a limp batting performance on day one of the Test summer’s curtain-raiser against Pakistan.
In what was depicted pre-match as a bold new era, the same travails which dogged England during a harrowing winter resurfaced as they were dismissed for just 184 in their first innings after opting to bat first.
Opener Cook, on the day he equalled ex-Australia captain Allan Border’s record of 153 consecutive Test matches, put his inconsistencies behind him by underpinning England’s attempted revival with a gutsy 70.
Pakistan seamers Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali impressed and shared eight wickets as England lost their final five wickets for just 16 runs, before the tourists reached 50-1 – a deficit of 134 runs – by the close.
“It could be one of those first innings plays fourth-innings matches. Or I could be totally wrong,” said Cook, who had managed just one score above 50 in his previous 17 innings since a knock of 243 against West Indies at Edgbaston last summer.
“Pakistan bowled good lines and lengths and got their rewards. They then gutsed it out well [with the bat] but their 50-1 could be 80-4, 120-7 and the game changes.
“We scrapped hard and knew the first two hours would be tough. It’s frustrating, we needed a lower-order partnership and 270-280 changes the day. The wicket did more than we expected. It did swing and nip all day, but if bowlers missed lengths or lines, you could score.”
Skipper Joe Root had taken it upon himself to move to No3 in the batting order in a bid to arrest England’s early-innings woes, but flayed recklessly and edged an attempted drive off Hasan for just four.
“We’ve all played a bad shot and will play another; as a batter you don’t mean to nick it,” added Cook. “Sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say ‘bad shot’.
“But the bloke averages 50 and is a world-class player, so we don’t need to worry. If he scores 150 in the second innings it doesn’t matter, does it?”
Anti-corruption officers, meanwhile, reprimanded Pakistan’s players for wearing smart watches. Babar Azam and Asad Shafiq appeared to be wearing them yesterday, although there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) prohibits any device capable of receiving communications or messages. Hasan said: “An ICC anti-corruption officer came to us and told us this is not allowed, so next time nobody will wear them.”
Opener Mark Stoneman, who entered the series with question marks over his place in the side, was the first of five batsmen to fall driving as he was bowled by Abbas for four.
The scorecard made dismal reading for England as only Cook, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler – the latter three making 27, 38 and 14 respectively – reached double figures.
For England generally, the picture looked bleak. Only once, in 1955, have they been bowled out for a lower score than 184 after winning the toss and batting first at Lord’s.