Pakistan’s Babar Azam reached a half-century on a rain-affected first day of the opening test against England with the tourists reaching 139-2 at stumps on Wednesday.
Already an established white-ball star, Babar arrived in England with a fast-growing reputation in the longer format, averaging 65.5 since the start of 2018 including four centuries in his last seven innings.
His effortless 69 not out was easily the highlight of a first day comprising just 49 overs, with 11 boundaries in a stay of exactly 100 balls.
Chris Woakes nearly dismissed Babar but the batsman frustrated England’s attack for the rest of the day and left his partner Shan Masood playing second fiddle. The opener batted studiously for 46 not out, with Jos Buttler fluffing two chances off Dom Bess on 45 – shelling a catch and missing a stumping.
England’s team selection hinged predominantly on Ben Stokes’ nagging quad injury, and he was ultimately named as a specialist batsman.
Pakistan began their innings under moody skies and with the floodlights on, but openers Masood and Abid Ali showed sufficient composure to negotiate the first hour for 32 without loss.
Both men were beaten on the outside edge on a couple of occasions but stuck admirably to the task of seeing off the challenge of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Jofra Archer, who created more headlines off the field than on it against the West Indies, needed just seven deliveries to make his presence felt.
After pushing the batsmen back in his first over, he started the second with a fuller ball at Abid, jagging it in off the pitch and pegging back off stump.
He made his way back for 16, an exit made all the more frustrating by a brief rain shower which forced the sides off after only three more deliveries.
It was only a brief recess but within 10 minutes of the restart Chris Woakes had the wicket of captain Azhar Ali, thumped on the front pad and on his way after an unwise referral.
That brought Babar to the crease amid great anticipation and, after a slow start, he resumed after lunch in better touch and reached his fifty just before tea with another four off Archer.
When play belatedly resumed at 5:45 p.m. a couple of short balls from Archer in failing light were enough to make it an all-spin affair.
Bess bested Masood for the second time when he came down the wicket and made no contact, Buttler undone by the bounce as he allowed a stumping chance to go begging. There was just time for one more healthy swing of Babar’s bat, pounding Bess down the ground before bad light ended things.