Pakistan's new era ushered in by bowling attack as England found out on Day 1 at Lord's
Tourists rolled out England for 184, with four wickets apiece for Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ail
As great sides grow old together, there comes a point when the future becomes a worry.
How to manage the transition from old guard to new? Will what follows ever be able to match what has gone before? Have Generation Next got the goods?
Whether the Pakistan side of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan could be considered truly great is open to debate. Definitely very good, at the least. Reaching No 1 in the Test standings in 2016 confirmed that much.
In short time, though, Pakistan have drifted out to seventh, with just Bangladesh, West Indies and Zimbabwe below them in the official standings.
They had lost nine of 11 Test matches before arriving in the UK this summer. And, fair to say, they were already on the turn in the final throes of the Mis-You era, anyway.
Clearly, it was the batting order that most obviously needed replenishing when those two titans made their exit this time last year.
And yet, judged on the first day of the Test series in England, it seems as though a new battery of pace bowlers is the foundation on which Pakistan’s Test future can be built.
Between them, Mohammed Abbas, Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf took as many wickets in England’s first innings – nine – as they had played Test matches before arriving at Lord’s.
Abbas, 28, was the old campaigner among them, having played a princely sum of six matches before the first of this series.
He bowled like a seasoned veteran on his first outing at the Home of Cricket, immediately finding the exact zone on a helpful pitch to cause most trouble.
This was relatively predictable, for those who have seen him be a threat on the featherbeds of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the past. Abbas’ method is infinitely better suited to lush Lord’s than the docile tracks of the UAE desert. He proved it at the first opportunity, by taking a four for 23 in 14 masterly overs.
Abbas had first forced his way into Pakistan’s Test reckoning just under a year ago through sheer weight of wickets in the relative anonymity of first-class cricket back at home.
By contrast, the other leading lights of Day 1 for Pakistan cut their teeth in limited-overs cricket first of all. Hasan, 24, and Faheem, 24, are stars of the white-ball game.
Hasan’s “explosion” wicket celebrations, for example, neatly fit with the tempo of Pakistan Super League’s Twenty20 matches, or in the green of Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, say.
They felt a little out of kilter with the genteel ambience of a Lord’s Test, but he was still able to employ them four times on his best day yet as a Test cricketer.
Faheem’s part might have been more cameo than headline. Yet his delivery to dismiss Jonny Bairstow, who had been threatening to rebuild the England innings, was arguably the best of a very good bunch of dismissals from Pakistan’s viewpoint.
It arced in, as is Faheem’s habit, then held its line up the Lord’s slope and took the top of Bairstow’s off-stump.
“Unbelievable performance by this young Pakistan side,” Wasim Akram, the former Pakistan pace great, said on commentary. And he did not seem to be using “unbelievable” as a superlative. Literally, difficult to believe, more like.
Pakistan’s young guns had entered England’s batting nightmare just as the home team might have been hoping to awaken from their miserable winter slumber.
Rolled for 184 on a return to what they must have hoped is a home fortress will be a worry to say the very least for an England who did not win a Test in series in Australia and New Zealand in the winter.
Of course, Pakistan’s batting line up can be brittle, too, and England’s main strength on paper appears to be their own pace attack.
Stuart Broad picked up Imam-ul-Haq cheaply, but Azhar Ali and Haris Sohail marshalled the tourists through to 50-1 by stumps.
Updated: May 24, 2018 10:14 PM