Misbah’s men remain in contention
Of all the factors that influence most the outcome of a cricket contest is the state of the pitch. Slow in pace or quick in nature or lift and bounce or turn with a bite or without it are all the characteristics which dictate the proceedings.
Five-day Test match cricket, especially, takes into account all that a track has on offer.
In countries where sun shines most of the day and weather is warm things always differ from those where cloud cover, drizzle and rain and weather variably change during the day. Countries with matting wickets in the past such as Pakistan, India, West Indies had little to worry though.
But in a place like England it always mattered most. Till as late as 1980 England had uncovered wickets on which day-to-day changing weather, rain and dew played a huge part in the performance of a bowler or a batsman.
Now that the wickets are covered and with batsmen a lot more comfortable than in the past when uncovered pitches posed problems bowlers do struggle.
In the ongoing Test here at Edgbaston, the pitch even on the fourth afternoon continued to remain a belter, not at any time showing a cause for concern once a batsman settled down and applied himself.
Usually as the game progresses the nature of the pitch does change. But no, not here as England first wiped off the lead and then settled down to frustrate Pakistan bowlers through some sensible batting by Alastair Cook who shared a useful stand with his opening partner Alex Hales.
And then later Joe Root and James Vince shut shops to keep an imminent collapse away from the Pakistan bowlers.
Only if one made a mistake that he paid out for it as did Root sweeping Yasir Shah after a patient knock and then falling in the trap set for the batsman as he swept and was comfortably caught.
Vince, a failure in the series so far who showed a lot better technique and temperament in this innings, also went fishing on an outgoing ball. The soft dismissal had nothing to do with the pitch.
Though Misbah’s men did play themselves back into the game right from the start of play yesterday bagging the vital wickets of Cook and Hales to bog England down on a docile surface, leg-spinner Yasir was unable to beat the bat.
But patience pays, it was just a matter of time before Pakistan once again struck after lunch keeping their hold on the game.
On an uncovered pitch this game may not have lasted this long with a bowler like Yasir operating. He bowled brilliantly, keeping a good line and control as he varied his flight. Rahat Ali did the same at times even wasting his deliveries outside the off stump.
The success of a bowler lies very much in maintaining not only a good line but also in ensuring he makes a batsman play most of his deliveries — a situation that increases the chances of a batsman making a mistake.
By the stroke of tea Pakistan did appear to be well in control having come back in the game to slow down England run-rate through well directed attack backed by some brilliant catching. The balance I suppose looked very much in favour of Pakistan as the day faded.