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Cook-like Shan Masood underlines Pakistan’s new Test formula

 

You can’t talk about Pakistan without talking about their fast bowling. Look at day 2 of the Old Trafford Test. Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Abbas made everyone forget the 319 balls Masood faced in one burst of 10 balls. The Test match was suddenly owned by Pakistan’s pace attack. 

Naseem Shah, who hadn’t even bowled, must have gotten more mentions on social media than Masood after Shaheen and Abbas reduced England to 12 for 3. But it was Masood who put Pakistan firmly in the driving seat after an early setback that saw them lose Babar Azam in the first over of the day. 

Masood’s innings could be split into two distinct phases. At lunch on day two Masood had faced 73 deliveries for just 31 runs, withstanding some tight bowling from England. But as Shadab Khan stepped in, Masood started taking toll on a tired England attack and a flat pitch. In the century stand that came off just 139 balls, Masood made 56 in just 70 balls, switching gears seamlessly. 

Misbah ul Haq, the Pakistan head coach, highlighted the importance of the daddy hundred Masood got. 

“Excellent performance by him, especially against that seam attack – the way Broad, Anderson, Woakes and Archer were bowling, and against an offspinner who was bowling well on a pitch where there was turn – (Masood showed) good application. His hard work paid off, he’s a hard-working guy, very committed and that really showed in this innings. Not just a hundred, a big hundred,” said Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq. “We would still have been in trouble if he had scored only a hundred. But 150-plus and playing through the innings, that was special.”

Alec Stewart chose to compare his innings to Alastair Cook’s modus of operandi. With distinct shades of Cook in his horizontal bat shots, Stewart’s observation wasn’t off the mark at all.

“Masood played an Alastair Cook-like innings and then went through the gears batting with the lower order,” Stewart said.

Not since 2016 had any overseas opening batsman batted 250 balls or more in England. Masood played 319 balls and moved from first to fifth gear effortlessly to ensure Pakistan were in command by the time they took the cherry in their hands. 

The left-handed Masood had averaged under 18 when he had toured the UK in 2016, struggling in particular against James Anderson who had dismissed him in each innings he had played against England before this, a total of six dismissals in 57 balls before this series. 

Overcoming Anderson and the other potent England bowlers, Masood put on a display and Dominic Cork, former England International, was particularly pleased with Masood ‘s performance.

“I thought he handled it really well – he handled the pace of Jofra Archer really well. There were five fielders on the leg-side as England bowled short and he didn’t look in any danger,” Cork said. 

“For Pakistan to come into the Test arena having only played internal warm-up games and produce that, it is a very fine Test innings. They are now in the box seat to dominate this Test from here.”

Much of that credit could fall on the pace attack, but it was Masood who set it up in the first place with a brilliant century. In the Misbah era, this essentially could be Pakistan’s gameplan every Test – bat big, even if progress is slow initially and then attack all out with their pace attack. And Masood fits snugly into this plan with his ability to soak pressure and then make his time spent at the crease useful. 

Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket journalist stuck in a love-hate live-in relationship with the game. To rile him up, mention the 1999 World Cup semi-final. Rohit has been writing about cricket for well over 10 years now, and has written for a variety of news and sports outlets over this time.

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