Jonny Bairstow insists England are still in with a “real fighting chance” despite Pakistan’s 166-run lead in the first NatWest Test at Lord’s.
England’s wicketkeeper appeared to bristle at times when he was invited to account for the five catches dropped by the hosts while Pakistan were racking up 300 runs on day two to close on 350 for eight.
Most damage was already done in England’s 184 all out, after Joe Root had chosen to bat first.
But after four Pakistan batsmen then reached 50, despite three wickets each for Ben Stokes and James Anderson, England are clinging to the hope that forecast hot weather over the weekend may bake an already dry surface and leave the tourists a tough last-innings target.
Asked if he thinks they may yet turn the match around, Bairstow said: “Absolutely, we’re still definitely in it.
“In the middle two innings, if we can gain parity with their score, then we’ve got an opportunity to bowl them out for 180 when it’s potentially the worst to bat, in the last.
“There’s no reason why we can’t (do that).”
Bairstow concedes England “could have batted better” against some fine bowling in their first innings.
But he added: “You don’t want to be looking back – you want to be looking forward. Those last two wickets at the end (tonight) have put us in with a real fighting chance.
“Days three and four are potentially the best time to bat on this wicket. By no means are we out of this game.”
As for England’s dropped catches, Bairstow said: “It’s not from (lack of) practice, that’s for sure. I’m sure you saw over the days leading in the amount of practice we’ve done.
“If you can put your finger on it, you’re welcome to come and join us in practice. You see the hard graft the guys are putting in with the catching.”
He discounted any theory that regular changes in fielding positions may be a contributory factor.
“You can look into it as much as you wish, and make up whatever ideas you want about who fields where. You put the best people in there.”
Stokes was the pick of England’s bowlers, and it was he who hit top-scorer Babar Azam just above the wrist with a hostile short ball – after which he retired hurt on 68.
Bairstow added: “Credit to the way they’ve batted today. They’ve stuck at it well and played with skill.
“We beat the bat a lot, the guys put in a serious shift today. They applied themselves and bowled with great skill. Unfortunately we did put a couple of chances down, but that happens.”
The opener is not yet taking victory here for granted, however.
“Obviously we’ve got in a good position now – but there’s a long way to go,” said Azhar.
“A Test match win never comes that easy. We know we’ll still have to play good cricket to win this one.”
– Babar is set to miss the remainder of Pakistan’s tour of England after an x-ray showed he suffered a fracture to his forearm, just above his left wrist.