England v Pakistan, Second Test, Day One Analysis
England 314 for 4 (Root 141*, Cook 105) v Pakistan
Although all the selection talk ahead of this Test match was about England’s bowling attack, it was their batting that was their biggest problem at Lord’s. However, on day one at Old Trafford Alastair Cook and Joe Root both scored hundreds to lay the foundations for a large first innings score.
Against a good bowling attack that had twice dismissed England for under 300 in the first Test, Cook and Root displayed excellent concentration and discipline in innings that were as much about the shots that they did not play as they were about the shots that they did.
The threat posed by Pakistan’s bowling attack was twofold: the left-arm seam bowlers, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz, and the leg-spinner, Yasir Shah.
The seamers tested Cook and Root’s restraint outside off stump, bowling disciplined channels, first with a packed slipped cordon and later with patience-testing boundary riders, but the loose shots never came. For Cook such diligence is typical, for Root, it is less so, but perhaps reinforced by his two loose dismissals in the first Test, slog-sweeping and hooking, he was determined to attack only those balls deserving of such treatment and using shots which involved minimal risk. As the day wore on the patience of Pakistan’s seamers wavered and soon their radars followed suit, the concentration of Cook and Root did not.
Although only a day one pitch, Cook and Root’s performances against Yasir were arguably the most impressive aspect of both their innings. No bowler in Test history has taken more wickets than Yasir has after 13 Tests and at Lord’s he was Pakistan’s match-winner taking ten wickets – on a typically hard and dry Old Trafford pitch he was expected to be the biggest threat. It was important that England played him well and Cook and Root played him masterfully.
To the left-handed Cook Yasir bowled the majority of balls straight, turning in towards the pads, to which Cook showed patience and care, if ever Yasir offered any width it was punished. The right-handed Root opted to shut off much of the off-side, especially early in his innings, which kept his hands close into his body and reduced the possibility of edges through to the wicket-keeper and slips. When Yasir erred in his line and bowled too straight, Root was able to push onto the back foot and turn the ball away onto the leg-side, and when Yasir erred in his length, and dropped it short, Root was equally able to capitalise. Yasir bowled from over the wicket and round the wicket but neither worked.
“I thought we maybe played a little bit across the ball at Lord’s,” Root said after play, “I thought today we played a lot straighter and gave ourselves a better chance by taking fewer risks.” 99 of Root’s 141 runs were scored in front of square.
Cook and Root displayed discipline in defence and efficiency in attack, both attributes that must be heeded by James Vince if he is to succeed in Test cricket. Vince, who was caught behind playing a loose drive outside off stump, has shown little evidence of restraint, particularly outside off stump, in his short Test career so far.
Revealingly, Vince has scored 63.66% of his runs in first-class cricket in boundaries, a relatively high number, compared to other batsmen, and in Test cricket he has scored an even higher percentage of his runs in boundaries, 67.85%, but in Test cricket, against better bowling, such attacking batting is unlikely to bring success. It would help that if, as well as adding discipline to his game, he was able to rotate the strike more often to relieve the pressure.
Vince can take some solace in that with Cook and Root he can learn from the very best.