I wonder whether England will go at the batsmen this morning. We’ve got to assume that Joe Root will start with Anderson and Broad, but after that, I’d not be surprised to see Archer send down his special brand of teeth-seekers, nor to see Stokes bully his carcass into the same. Whoever wins this session will be set up for the series, which is to say that, in my educated opinion, “the first hour is crucial”.
The feeling of watching someone be good at something is an intense one, and underpins the enduring popularity of elite sport. But the feeling of watching someone be really good at something – someone making that something into an expression of their personality, an extension of their self, an elevation of their soul – underpins the enduring popularity of being alive, its own kind of morality that is somehow both calming and exhilarating, moving and amusing, mortifying and affirming.
To watch Babar Azam bat is to experience all this and more, and how England handle that could well decide this Test match and this series. If they can dismiss him this morning, they will be set; if they cannot, they will find themselves in major trouble.
But they have plenty of scope to impose themselves. Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson bowled very nicely in yesterday’s first session, while Jofra Archer looked extremely grooved and Chris Woakes extremely handsome. As such, yerman – and his pal– can expect a thorough examination over the next couple of hours. And should England fail, they will at least get to enjoy the thrill of watching Babar Batfreak do his thing.