|Second Test, Multan (day one of five)|
|England 281: Duckett 63 (49), Pope 60 (61); Abrar 7-114|
|Pakistan 107-2: Babar 61* (76)|
|Pakistan trail by 174 runs|
Pakistan leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed took a sensational seven wickets on debut to bowl England out for 281 on the first day of the second Test in Multan.
The 24-year-old took advantage of a pitch offering excessive turn to record 7-114, the best figures by any spinner on Test debut for 14 years.
When he took the first seven wickets to fall he was on course to become the first bowler to take all 10 in an innings on Test debut.
But Zahid Mahmood nipped in with the last three, still ensuring that every England wicket fell to leg-spin.
Ben Duckett made 63 from 49 balls and Ollie Pope 60 from 61 for England, who at different stages lost four wickets for 17 runs and four for 50 after winning the toss.
In such conditions, England may rue an XI that includes four pace bowlers and only one frontline spinner in Jack Leach.
Still, James Anderson removed Imam-ul-Haq for a duck before Leach had Abdullah Shafique also caught behind.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam remains, ominously poised on 61. He added 56 with Saud Shakeel, who attacked in his 32 not out as the hosts closed on 107-2, 174 behind.
England, 1-0 up in the three-match series, are chasing a first Test series win over Pakistan outside of the UK for 22 years.
Multan pitch adds layer of intrigue
This was another helter-skelter day in what could eventually turn into a truly memorable series.
Whereas England’s thrilling first-Test win came on an unresponsive pitch in Rawalpindi, the Multan surface spun from the outset and instantly added a layer of intrigue to the contest.
Undeterred, or maybe even spurred on, by the conditions, England continued with their eagerness to attack with the bat, scoring at almost 5.5 runs an over.
But they were checked by some beguiling bowling from Abrar, who delighted a home crowd that half-filled the vast Multan stadium, a ground that has not hosted a Test for 16 years.
Given the conditions, England’s total could yet prove competitive. However, the tourists do seem to have misread the pitch. Leach opened the bowling, while seamer Ollie Robinson is yet to feature.
Their chief concern will be how to remove the classy Babar, batting at number three after Pakistan made the big call to omit experienced former skipper Azhar Ali.
This was a mesmerising performance by the bespectacled Abrar, who came on after only eight overs and bowled 22 consecutively until England were all out.
Prolific in Pakistani domestic cricket this season and controversially left out of the team for the first Test, he countered England’s aggression with flight, flicks of the wrist and clicks of his fingers.
Nominally a leg-spinner, he turns the ball in the opposite direction by pushing it out of the front of the hand, often referred to as a ‘carrom ball’.
It was with these deliveries that he claimed his most spectacular scalps. With his fifth ball in Test cricket he bowled a bemused Zak Crawley with one that came back between bat and pad then, later, his sixth wicket stunned captain Ben Stokes. A geometry-defying delivery pitched outside the left-hander’s leg stump and hit middle and off.
In between, Duckett was lbw sweeping, Joe Root trapped on the back foot, Pope reverse-swept to point and Harry Brook played a wild hack to be caught at mid-off.
When Will Jacks was leg before sweeping, Abrar was on course for all 10 and a place alongside three other bowlers in Test cricket’s most exclusive club.
But Robinson skied to long-off off Zahid, who bowled both Leach and Anderson when they were attempting reverse-sweeps, leaving Mark Wood unbeaten on 36 from 27 balls.
England live and die by the sword
Despite the ugliness of some of England’s dismissals – five were out sweeping or reverse-sweeping – it it is hard to criticise the positivity that has brought seven wins in their past eight Tests.
It could even be argued that other, more tentative, England sides would have been bowled out for half as many runs when faced with the brilliance of Abrar.
Duckett and Pope added 79 for the second wicket in only 10.1 overs. Both lived and died with the sweeps and reverses and both overturned being given lbw to Abrar. Pope added 49 after his reprieve, Duckett only two.
They fell in the first England mini-collapse, after which Stokes and Jacks shared 61 for the sixth wicket.
Just as England were getting on top once more, Stokes was befuddled by Abrar for 30, while Jacks fell for 31.
The second slump was swifter and terminal, only briefly halted by Wood and Anderson putting on 36 for the last wicket.
‘Abrar bowled beautifully’ – what they said
Pakistan spinner Abrar Ahmed, speaking on Sky Sports, via an interpreter: “I will not forget today. I read the wicket when I started to bowl. I bowled cross-seam to start to see what was required. Variations were the key on this pitch.
“Ben Stokes was my favourite wicket. My favourite player!”
England opener Ben Duckett to Sky Sports: “I’d say it’s level at the minute. We were a couple of quick wickets away from it being our day. We’ll have to see how it goes in the morning but we’re pretty happy overall.”
On Abrar Ahmed: “I can only talk individually and I had my plans for him. He was basically a leg-spinner who had a good googly. There was no real mystery to it but he bowled beautifully today. I’m sure we’ll have our plans second innings but I’m pretty sure it won’t be blocking it.”
Former Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis on BBC Test Match Special: “England shouldn’t have played as many funky shots. Yes you score quicker if you play all those reverse-sweeps but you also lose wickets quicker. On a pitch that’s turning like this one, England should have shown some more restraint.”
Former England spinner Vic Marks on BBC Test Match Special: “England seem to be more interested in the rate they score at rather than their total. Likewise, when they’re in the field, they’re more interested in their strike-rate than the runs they’re conceding.
“Pakistan raced along in that last session. I’d rather be in their shoes, they’ve just edged this day.”