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Cricket news - Abid Ali exemplifies a day of missed opportunities for Pakistan

Dropped by Dom Sibley and Rory Burns in the slips, Abid went on to score 60 but Pakistan could have done with more than that

Dropped by Dom Sibley and Rory Burns in the slips, Abid went on to score 60 but Pakistan could have done with more than that

All eyes were on Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali heading into the England Test series. Not because of the legacy to uphold, given that Pakistan have not lost a Test series in England since 2016, but owing to his plummeting form in the last couple of years. Since being appointed as captain in October 2019, Azhar Ali has just one fifty in 10 innings; he has averaged just 11.77 in the last three years in 18 innings outside Asia. Had Pakistan won that first Test in Manchester, where they'd come so close, perhaps the spotlight on him would've dimmed down, but England's three-wicket heist magnified it further.

Scores of 0 and 18 in the first Test didn't help a harried Azhar, who managed only 20 in the second before Pakistan were reduced to 126 for 5 at Stumps on Day 1 in Southampton. The decision to bat first backfired as the day was dominated by rain with just over 45 overs of play possible. Pakistan could've been in a worse position in all fairness had it not been for the reprieves handed to Abid Ali by England's slip fielders. Dropped once by Dom Sibley and once by Rory Burns, Abid captialised on the let-offs to reach a his third 50-plus score in five matches, adding 72 runs with Azhar as Pakistan dominated the opening session.

This is Abid's first Test tour to England. There was brief scare when he copped a hit to the helmet at forward short leg in an intra-squad game before the series. And on Thursday (August 13), he led Pakistan's charge in Southampton with resolve, seeing off the new ball in a brilliant opening spell from James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Anderson was rewarded with Shan Masood's wicket, but Broad was denied Abid by the slips. Ramiz Raja, in the lead-up to the series, had revealed Abid's weakness being the short ball, and the English pacers concurred with short balls galore. Yet, it didn't rattle him.

Azhar and Abid rotated the strike, kept the scoreboard ticking with umpteen singles on the leg side as the pacers bowled a touch too straight early on. Abid played and missed as the ball evaded the outside edge several times on the line of the fourth and fifth stump. When the edge was Anything with width, he put away and reached his half-century. Azhar wouldn't have even gotten to 20 had his edge on 11 carried to Joe Root at slip, but after lunch, he failed to score a single run before Anderson lured him into a drive that Rory Burns pouched at slip.

It was in the final session though, when all the hard work fell flat on its face. Pakistan lost Abid (60), Asad Shafiq (5) and Fawad Alam (0), who was returning to Pakistan's Test side after 2009, within the space of seven overs as Sam Curran and Chris Woakes joined the party. In a small passage of play, once again, England had snatched the momentum right out of Pakistan's hands.

"We won the toss and wanted to bat with a positive mindset. We wanted to put on a good total but the conditions changed because of the weather. It was very sunny the last two days here, but today it was challenging to go in and out, although the ball was coming onto the bat well. It was disappointing (not to continue after 60), but it's a part of the game. Any way to contribute to the team, I try my best. I wanted to see off the new ball and stick to the plan the team has. I couldn't score a hundred, but it's part of the game. I'll keep giving my best for the team. I'm giving my 100 per cent.

"It is my first time in England so I'm just trying to do my best irrespective of the conditions. The coaching staff has been helping us prepare for the last month and a half, so I'm hoping to do well. Right now it's a bit challenging but I'm trying my best to adapt."

Unlike Masood in Manchester, Abid couldn't quite go on to make a big score. And his innings typifies a day of missed opportunities for Pakistan, especially when they had caught England cold and clumsy early on.

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