Jack Leach turns screw as England surge into command of second Test

Pakistan 202 (Babar 75, Shakeel 63, Leach 4-98) trail England 281 (Duckett 63, Pope 60, Abrar 7-114) by 79 runs

England surged into command of the second Test on the second morning at Multan, picking up Pakistan’s remaining eight wickets for 95 including a pre-lunch flurry of three for none in six balls, as Pakistan lost their composure against the spin of Jack Leach and Joe Root, and with it potentially the series.

After a misleadingly serene first six overs of the day, in which Pakistan’s overnight pair of Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel had added 35 runs to take their third-wicket stand to an ominous 91, the dismissal of Babar in Ollie Robinson’s first over of the match was the earliest sign of the unsettled display to come.

Shakeel followed soon afterwards for 63, handing Leach his 100th Test wicket in the process, and when Pakistan’s other kingpin, Mohammad Rizwan also fell to Leach for 10 – having taken 28 deliveries to open his account in a deeply cagey display – the lower middle-order fell away, with Root’s lesser-spotted offspin claiming two wickets in his first five balls of the day.

Robinson, the Player of the Match from last week’s Rawalpindi victory, had been a notable absentee from England’s attack on the first day, but made his presence felt from the moment he entered the fray in the 35th over of the innings. Reverse-swing had been a feature of his match-winning spell in the first Test, and sure enough, his second delivery bent back appreciably as Babar leaned into an ill-conceived drive, and crashed into the middle and off stumps.

It was a hammer blow to Pakistan’s hopes of converting their overnight 107 for 2 into a dominant position, and Rizwan’s response to the setback was an innings of deep retrenchment. At the other end, Shakeel at least converted his overnight 32 into a 65-ball half-century, his second in three innings in his fledgling Test career, but with England drying up the runs, his eventual dismissal was an aberration that opened the floodgates.

A fine drive through long-off off Leach seemed to have signalled an upping of Shakeel’s tempo, but it gave way, one ball later, to an awful hoick through the line, as Anderson at mid-on rushed round to his left to cling onto an skewed outside edge. And two overs later, Rizwan was gone as well, beaten by a dipping ripper from Leach that turned and bounced into the top of middle and off from round the wicket. At 165 for 5, the innings was suddenly in freefall.

In theory, the recall of Mohammad Nawaz had added some substance to Pakistan’s lower-middle order. In practice, his response to the mounting crisis was an impetuous skip to the pitch and a scuffed drive to Robinson at mid-off to give Leach his fourth of the innings.

By this stage, Pakistan’s innings had lasted more balls than England’s first-innings total of 281 all out in 51.4 overs, but the lack of intent in their approach had created a level of pressure over and above anything England had felt, even while wickets were falling with greater frequency in their innings.

One delivery later, Root returned to the attack with instant success, as Agha Salman popped a gently looping offbreak straight to Ben Stokes at short mid-on, and Root had two in five balls when Mohammad Ali snicked to Crawley at slip, the chance looping off his back pad as he pressed forward with no conviction.

At 169 for 8 and with lunch approaching, Stokes was in no mood to let up the pressure. Back came Wood for what could have been the final over of the session, and with his very first ball, Zahid Mahmood was smashed on the pad and sent on his way lbw for the third duck of the innings.

Abrar Ahmed – Pakistan’s first-innings hero – hung around with Faheem Ashraf as lunch was pushed back by half an hour, but after frustrating England in a 25-minute stand of 23, Wood’s return to the attack induced an airy flick to deep midwicket from Ashraf, to wrap up a very satisfactory session for the visitors.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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