Stumps England 7 for 1 trail Pakistan 297 to 304 (Babar 78, Salman 56, Leach 4-140)
Pakistan’s batsmen sowed their own demise on the first day of a 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 succumbed to finish with 4 wickets for 140, Pakistan were bowled out for 304. Despite losing Zach Crawley for a wicket, England were clearly happier overnight with the lifeless pitch. There was enough for their spinners to suggest that batting last might be a challenge, but the only balls that were fouled were the ones that died short of length.
Leicestershire’s leg-spinning all-rounder Rehan Ahmed became the youngest player to play Test cricket for England at the age of 18 years and 126 days and struck twice on debut, Saud Shakeel caught at short leg and Faheem Ashraf LBW. After a nervous start before lunch, he found his stride in the second session and ended the day on 2 for 89 in 22 overs.
Ahmed, presented his cap by Nasir Hussain as he stood alongside his father Naeem in the England huddle, bowled five wickets for 37 in the morning session, with Babar and the recalled Azhar Ali positive against him. Batting. But after lunch he found his groove.
Beaten by his back ball, a fast-spinning googly that went past the outside edge, Shakeel stepped forward and hit a leg break into his pads. The ball moved to short leg where Ollie Pope – back in the field when Ben Foakes returned to England – pushed himself forward to take a perfect one-handed catch.
And in the evening session, Ahmed made Faheem his second Test victim. His googly, which he used extensively throughout the day, was straight enough to hit the left-hander around the wicket on the outside edge, knocking him down on the back thigh pad. He also became the first England leg-spinner to take two wickets in his first innings as a Test cricketer since Ian Salisbury against Pakistan at Lord’s 30 years ago.
England’s spinners bowled 56 out of 79 overs and Ben Stokes wasted no time in bringing Leach into the game. He became the first English spinner since Jack White in 1921 to share the new ball in the first innings of a Test and caught Abdullah Shafiq early on with a slip on the front pad.
Shaun Masood, playing his first Test match since January 2021 after two seasons of an impressive run in domestic cricket across all formats, was positive early on, taking Leach’s first over for four on his feet and twice through the ground. Hitting a boundary down low, but fell. For 30 off 37 balls, had earlier survived a close lbw shot at Revue while reverse-sweeping. He was impressed by the planning of a short ball, as Mark Wood hit the ball at 90mph/145kph down the pitch which he drove off the back of the bat to Leach at long leg.
He brought Babar to the crease, who played positively alongside Azhar, returning to No.3 in the final Test of his career. He was one of four men in the squad along with Masood, Nauman and debutant Muhammad Wasim, along with Muhammad Nawaz, Zahid Mahmood, Muhammad Ali and the injured Imamul Haq.
Azhar pulled Ahmed’s third delivery through midwicket for four when he fell short, the first of six boundaries conceded by the leg-spinner in his first spell. These included a thick outside edge for four from Babar, slashing at a wide leg break, but the rest was played with controlled aggression.
Ollie Robinson bowled just three overs in his first spell and played for the best part of an hour before leaving the field with a stomach bug, but returned shortly before lunch to make significant progress. Azhar had found some rhythm after a slow start but he gloved a length ball down the leg side. Focus, behind the stumps after sitting out the first two Tests, took a fine diving catch to the left, which TV replays confirmed was a clean take.
Both Babar and Salman played with positive intent, rotating the strike and keeping the occasional bad ball at bay, but a series of uncharacteristic dismissals meant wickets fell regularly. Rizwan was the main culprit, charging and waving Root’s soft lob straight to Stokes in the deep, but Babar is unlikely to reflect fondly on his dismissal.
After reaching his first innings half-century in the third Test in a row, Babar was slow to depart from the non-striker’s end as Salman worked the square leg. Harry Brook’s throw was a bit wayward, but Fowkes reacted strongly and killed the bulls with Babar just short of his own ground.
When Leach slipped through the tail – Noman took the catch clearing the slog, Salman charged down and hit the outside edge and Abrar Ahmed hit a beauty that hit the top of his off-stump – England finished light. It went on but there was plenty of time left. The day they face three overs.
Abrar trapped Crowley with a flat-leg break on the fifth ball of the innings, but Pope and Ben Duct survived to the stumps. Pakistan reviewed the final ball of the day, a brilliant googly that swept across Duckett’s body as he came down to sweep, but ball-tracking technology confirmed it was off his leg-stump. It was outside.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98