England 7 for 1 trail Pakistan 304 (Babar 78, Salman 56, Leach 4-140) by 297 runs
Pakistan’s batters sowed the seeds of their own demise on the first day of the dead-rubber third Test in Karachi, as England bowled them out for 304 on a dry, benign National Stadium pitch after being asked to bowl first.
As Leach mopped up the tail to finish with 4 for 140, Pakistan were bowled out for 304. Despite losing Zak Crawley for a duck, England were clearly the happier side overnight, given the lifelessness of the pitch. There was just enough on offer for their spinners to suggest that batting last may prove to be a challenge, but the only balls that misbehaved were ones that died from short of a length.
Rehan Ahmed, Leicestershire’s legspinning allrounder, became the youngest man to play Test cricket for England at 18 years and 126 days old and struck twice on debut, having Saud Shakeel caught at short leg and trapping Faheem Ashraf lbw. After a nervy start before lunch, he found his length in the second session and finished the day with 2 for 89 in 22 overs.
Ahmed, presented his cap by Nasser Hussain while stood next to his father Naeem in England’s huddle, bowled five wicketless overs for 37 runs in the morning session, struggling to find a good length as Babar and the recalled Azhar Ali batted positively against him. But after lunch, he found his groove.
Beaten by his previous ball, a sharply-spun googly that turned past the outside edge, Shakeel prodded forward and inside-edged a legbreak into his pad. The ball ballooned up to forward short leg where Ollie Pope – back in the field as Ben Foakes returned to the England side – flung himself forward to take an excellent one-handed catch.
And in the evening session, Ahmed made Faheem his second Test victim. His googly, which he used extensively throughout the day, straightened enough to beat the left-hander on the outside edge from around the wicket, hitting him low on the back thigh pad. He became the first England legspinner to take two wickets in his first innings as a Test cricketer since Ian Salisbury, also against Pakistan at Lord’s 30 years ago.
England’s spinners bowled 56 of the 79 overs and Ben Stokes wasted no time getting Leach into the game. He became the first England spinner to share the new ball in the very first innings of a Test since Jack White in 1921 and struck early on, trapping Abdullah Shafique on the front pad with a ball that skidded through.
Shan Masood, playing his first Test match since January 2021 after two seasons of prolific all-format run-making in domestic cricket, was positive early on, using his feet and twice hitting boundaries down the ground for four in Leach’s first over, but fell for a 37-ball 30, having earlier survived a close lbw shout on review while reverse-sweeping. He was sucked in by a short-ball plan, as Mark Wood slammed the ball into the pitch at 90mph/145kph which he miscued down to Leach at long leg via the back of the bat.
That brought Babar to the crease, who played positively alongside Azhar, brought back into the side at No. 3 in the final Test of his career. He was one of four men to come into the side along with Masood, Nauman and debutant Mohammad Wasim, with Mohammad Nawaz, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Ali and the injured Imam-ul-Haq giving way.
Azhar pulled Ahmed’s third ball through midwicket for four as he dropped short, the first of six boundaries that the legspinner conceded in his first spell. Those included a thick outside edge for four from Babar, slashing at a wide legbreak, but the rest were played with controlled aggression.
Ollie Robinson bowled only three overs in his first spell before leaving the field for the best part of an hour with an upset stomach, but returned shortly before lunch to make the crucial breakthrough. Azhar had found some rhythm after a slow start but gloved a back-of-a-length ball down the leg side. Foakes, back behind the stumps after sitting out of the first two Tests, took an excellent diving catch low to his left, which TV replays confirmed was a clean take.
Babar and Salman both played with positive intent, rotating the strike and putting the occasional bad balls away, but a series of casual dismissals meant wickets fell regularly. Rizwan was the prime culprit, charging down and hoisting Root’s gentle lob straight to Stokes in the deep, but Babar is unlikely to reflect fondly on his dismissal.
After reaching a first-innings half-century for the third consecutive Test, Babar was slow to set off from the non-striker’s end as Salman worked to square leg. Harry Brook’s throw was slightly wayward, but Foakes reacted sharply and whipped off the bails with Babar just short of his ground.
When Leach rolled through the tail – Nauman caught slog-sweeping, Salman beaten on the outside edge charging down and Abrar Ahmed flummoxed by a beauty that hit the top of his off stump – England walked off with the light fading but enough time left in the day for them to face three overs.
Abrar struck with the fifth ball of the innings, trapping Crawley in front with a flat legbreak, but Pope and Ben Duckett survived until stumps. Pakistan reviewed the final ball of the day, an Abrar googly which struck Duckett on the body as he got down to sweep, but ball-tracking technology confirmed it had pitched outside his leg stump.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98