Ageless Misbah boosts Pakistan on opening day of Lord's Test

July 15, 2016

Pakistan's veteran captain Misbah-ul-Haq illuminated the opening day of the first Test against England at Lord's with an unbeaten century as the tourists closed on 282-6.

At the age of 42, he became the third oldest Test centurion at Lord's and the oldest man to reach three figures in a Test match since 1934. To emphasise his ageless endurance, he celebrated with a series of push-ups. 

The Pakistan captain finished the day 110 not out and shared a partnership of 148 for the fifth wicket with the classy Asad Shafiq, after England had reduced the tourists to 135-4. For fans booking corporate hospitality for the final Test of the summer at the Kia Oval, the day hinted that this will be a close-fought series rich in high quality action. 

Having won the toss on a slow pitch, Pakistan got off to a good start by adding 38 for the first wicket before first-change bowler Chris Woakes produced a lifter to take the edge of Shan Masood's bat. He then dismissed fellow opener Mohammad Hafeez, whose breezy 40 was ended when he skied a pull shot to Jonny Bairstow. 

Debutant Jake Ball then took his first Test wicket with a yorker that trapped Azhar Ali lbw. Having unsuccessfully reviewed an appeal against Masood in the second over of the match, his dismissal of Ali was upheld when a review adjudged it was umpire's call for the ball just clipping leg stump.

With Pakistan 77-3, Misbah and fellow veteran Younis Khan began an important partnership and added 57 before Younis flicked Stuart Broad straight to Moeen Khan midwicket.

However, when Moeen himself came on to bowl he was treated with the same disdain by Misbah that he was in the UAE last autumn. In one over the Pakistan captain alternated between reverse and orthodox sweeps to score four successive boundaries.  

With Shafiq providing fine support and Steven Finn struggling with the ball, Pakistan appeared to be taking control until Woakes returned late in the day, having Shafiq caught behind off the new ball for 73 and then dismissing nightwatchman Rahat Ali for a duck with the final ball of the day, with the tailender playing an extravagant drive and dragging the ball onto his stumps.

Pakistan went on to reach 339 all out on the second morning and will now seek to unleash their varied bowling attack, with the pacemen hoping the ball swings more for them than it did for the England attack. Only Woakes managed to consistently move the ball in the air on a day when the absence of James Anderson may have enabled Pakistan to make a better score than they did.

Despite the excellence of Misbah and Shafiq, Pakistan still showed some signs of batting fragility and with England's own top six looking a little unsettled, the prospects for the series to be a bowler-dominated one are significant. 

On their last visit, Pakistan were bowled out for less than 100 on three occasions, while England passed 400 just once in the four matches and only made as many runs as they did due to a large number of dropped catches. 

By Alex Brundell 

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