England are under huge pressure to avoid going behind in their Test series against Pakistan after closing on 92 for four on the second day of the opening Test, still trailing Pakistan by 234 runs.
After Pakistan dismissed England’s top four - including the crucial wickets of Ben Stokes and Joe Root - in a captivating final session, Jofra Archer admitted that Pakistan’s attack posed a major threat.
“They’re a world-class team and they probably have one of the best bowling line-ups on the Test circuit,” Archer said. “Not every session’s going to go your way.”
Pakistan unleashed their much-hyped young quick pair of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah on England. After Afridi had dismissed Rory Burns lbw fourth ball, seam bowler Mohammad Abbas snared Dom Sibley lbw and then clean bowled Ben Stokes for a duck to leave England in disarray at 12 for three.
Yasir Shah - one of Pakistan’s two leg-spinners - then removed captain Joe Root, who was attempting to cut. The wickets leave England dependent upon the undefeated pair of Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler - who reached 46 and 15 not out respectively at the close - if they are to get anywhere near Pakistan’s total of 326.
England’s position is especially precarious because they selected a five-man bowling attack for this game, with Chris Woakes - who made one run in two innings in last month’s Test series against the West Indies - at number seven.
“We just need to get as close to, or past, their total,” Archer said. “The wicket is getting easier to bat on and I have no doubt that the two not out can go on and score big.
“I think they can put on a really big partnership and help swing the momentum of the game in our favour.”
Archer bowled impressively to take three for 59 from 22 overs, and spoke for the first time since missing the second Test against the West Indies after breaching quarantine rules.
“I’m very happy to be back,” he said. “I’m fine, I’m back playing cricket again. Whatever happened last series is gone and I’m just glad that at the start of this series I got three wickets to my name.”
Archer, who enjoyed a spectacular maiden international summer last year in the World Cup and Ashes, admitted that players have found the bio-secure arrangements and the lack of crowds at international games challenging. “It’s been a bit weird,” he said.
Archer has been selected for all three of the Tests that he has been available for this summer.
“It’s nice to get some playing time out there,” he said. “It’s also nice to get some wickets as well. I felt like I bowled well against the West Indies I just didn’t have anything to show for it.”
Although he was still a persistent threat, Archer did not bowl as fast as in some spells for England.
“It's not deliberate,” he said. “It's not every day you're going to come in and 90mph. I've seen Shah [Shaheen Afridi] started bowling 90, so we'll see how he goes on later on tomorrow morning or afternoon.
“No one's robots so I'll be very, very interested to see what he can produce a bit later. This wicket is not a wicket you're really going to try to bend your back on. We bowled first and there was a little bit there in the morning but eventually as the game's gone on, actually it's spinning on day two so that says a lot about the wicket right now.”
Archer said that he was particularly impressed with Shan Masood, who made 156 to underpin Pakistan’s total.
“I actually know Shan pretty well. I made my first-class debut against Pakistan and ever since then we’ve kept in touch,” he said. “It’s good to see that he’s come a long then.”
Pakistan’s coach Misbah-ul-Haq believes that the team are in a dominant position. “It’s crucial to take wickets with the new ball, especially when you are playing with just 326 runs, he said. “Our bowlers have provided us with an advantage.”