Ben Stokes makes it happen but England still flounder

Changing slip cordon not behind dropped catches - Bairstow (1:49)

Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow defends England's performance in the field on a day of missed chances at Lord's (1:49)

Ben Stokes is charging in, Jos Buttler is flying, and Dawid Malan is desperate. Stokes has just come on to make something happen. What he's delivered is a short of a length ball outside off stump, and Asad Shafiq tries to steer it. But it's too big, and he can't keep it down. The ball flies through gully. Buttler launches himself to his left, and the ball slams into his hands, but then pops back out. Malan reacts to the ball looping in front of him, but he's just too far away and the ball lands on the turf. Stokes made something happen, it just didn't work.

In the first 15 overs Pakistan played and missed more than England did. England were in control of the ball 76% of the time, Pakistan a shade under at 74%. England bowlers - oft-lambasted for bowling too short - bowled fuller than Pakistan's line up did. The bowlers were good, it just didn't work.

England had clear game plans for the batsmen, and they stuck to them. For Azhar Ali, it was to stay outside off stump. Usually he scores 52% on the leg side, this innings he only made 28% of his runs there, but he still stayed put for over 200 minutes. For Babar Azam it was the short ball which, according to CricViz, he averages over 40 against in Tests. They didn't take his wicket, but it was the short ball that eventually made him leave the field injured. They stayed true to their theories, it just didn't work.

While the ball was still moving, and Pakistan barely holding on, England bowled short and around the wicket at Azhar. Mark Wood is superb at bowling right arm around the wicket short stuff, but Azhar is as good playing it. There was merit to trying it, it just didn't work.

They brought Dominic Bess on the first time last night for the penultimate over before stumps. Then they waited until the 43rd over to bring him on, when both of the left-handers were gone. Early in that second spell, the batsmen looked like they were trying to implode against him, before looking at the scoreboard and realising they could milk him. Bess worked hard, but the ball didn't spin much, he wasn't accurate, and he's a 20-year-old with not much experience to use. They took a punt on him; it just didn't work.

That doesn't include the fielding, there were perhaps seven missed opportunities. Last night Stokes tried to take a pearler, dropping it and stopping Malan from completing an easy chance. Alastair Cook missed a low one to his right. Buttler's flying spill at gully. Cook missed one - or Jonny Bairstow did - when Cook and Bairstow left a wasteland between each other. And Cook dropped another one the next over. There was also the time when Buttler had a ball fly high and to his left, while he went low and to his right. And a Bess run out that might have been close if he'd hit the stumps.

In seven balls England missed a catch, allowed an easy four, dropped a catch and conceded overthrows. After Cook's two misses, he was taken from slip to short leg, Anderson took over at slip, before Cook went back to slip an over later. Later he moved out again before going back. England's fielding was stuck on shuffle. According to CricViz Cook catches 69% of his catches at slip, a good slip fielder should be at over 80%.

So what do you do when your plans don't work and your fielders can't catch? You turn to Stokes. Because, Stokes.

Early on Stokes was okay; his first six overs went for 13 runs, but he didn't break through. After a big rest in the middle of the innings, he came back on with the old ball. He bowled so well they gave him the new one ahead of Anderson.

It was Stokes who played on the ego of Sarfraz Ahmed just before tea. He bowled fast and short to him, he tempted him, and then Sarfraz got sucked in and was caught at fine leg. It was Stokes who kept bouncing Babar, well after it looked like that was a poor plan, and while he didn't dismiss him, he retired him with a stinging blow on the arm. And when BFFs Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf were steering the game out of England's reach, it was Stokes who removed Shadab.

Stokes was in one of those moods that scares the villagers. Even when the speed didn't say he was that quick, it felt like it. The game was slipping away from England, and he was in proper "Ben Stokes aint gonna let that happen" mood. Stokes bowled the fastest ball today for England, despite Wood. Stokes made the breakthroughs, despite Broad. Stokes took the new ball, despite Anderson. Had Stokes wanted to, you could see him bowling a couple of offies to show up Bess as well.

The ball after Buttler's drop, Stokes was back at Shafiq. Right at him, if the last ball got big, this one got Godzilla. It grew and grew, and went straight for the throat of Shafiq. This time Shafiq couldn't play it, and got smashed on the fingers and the ball coughed up gently to slips. The ball was brutal, the reaction to the drop equally so. Stokes made it happen, he kept England in the game.

But Pakistan were ahead in the game when Shafiq was dismissed and by the time Stokes got Shadab, Pakistan had a proper lead.

Stokes did all he could, it just didn't work.