England 106 for 2 (Root 29*, Bess 0*) trail Pakistan 174 (Shadab 56, Woakes 3-55, Anderson 3-43, Broad 3-38) by 68 runs
Sarfraz Ahmed had never before won the toss in his four previous Tests as Pakistan's Test captain. And after a first-day collapse at Headingley that looks set to be as match-defining as England's own meltdown at Lord's proved to be last week, he'd be forgiven for wishing he'd saved that duck-breaking call for another day.
Instead, Sarfraz took the bold option - leading 1-0 in the series after Pakistan's flawless victory in the first Test, he trusted his batsmen to front up once more on a bright Leeds morning and on a straw-coloured wicket, and moreover against an England team whose stock in Test cricket arguably hasn't been lower for two decades. It was a show of intent from a captain with faith in his troops - a move that would have been hailed as going for the jugular had it paid off. It didn't.
By the close, England had moved along to 106 for 2 - a deficit of 68 - and it was at least clear that Sarfraz hadn't been wrong in his estimation of the pitch. The trouble was, his team had already been rolled aside for 174 in just under two sessions - and even that total had owed almost everything to another defiant half-century from their young legspinner, Shadab Khan, whose 56 from 52 balls hauled his side out of a swing-induced tailspin at 79 for 7.
In truth, England (as a unit) did not bowl as well as Pakistan's collapse might imply. The exception was Stuart Broad, who dismissed Imam-ul-Haq twice in his very first over of the day (the first was an lbw, overturned on review) and whose new-ball length was, according to CricViz, the fullest he has ever bowled in a Test in England.
What England did do, however, was shamelessly stack their side with horses for Headingley's traditionally swing-friendly course. This was in part a move borne of necessity - when Ben Stokes was ruled out before the toss due to a hamstring strain, the 19-year-old allrounder Sam Curran was pitched into the fray to become the third sub-21-year-old, after Mason Crane and Dom Bess, to make his debut for England this year.
But it was also a knee-jerk reaction to England's thumping defeat at Lord's last week. So much for Andrew Strauss's appeal to select cricketers who will play key roles on overseas tours - all that matters right now is getting off the mark in home conditions, so in came another swing merchant, Chris Woakes, in place of the luckless Mark Wood, whose split-field bang-it-in length at Lord's had not exactly reaped the rewards that seam bowlers might expect in early season England. Better luck in Galle and Colombo, eh?
Pakistan, so disciplined in the first Test, where they had strode on to the front foot and visibly sniffed the leather in playing the ball right under their collective noses, were all too often complicit in their own downfalls. Imam's first-over slash to slip off Broad was a dereliction of duty from a man who had sealed both run-chases at Malahide and Lord's, while Haris Sohail was another to give his innings away tamely - a fishing-rod snick to slip off Woakes, after he and Asad Shafiq had pieced together the innings after the loss of both openers.
Asad himself departed shortly before lunch, to Woakes as well, leaving Pakistan four-down for 62, but it was straight after the break that their innings went into freefall.
James Anderson had bowled an in-between length in his new-ball spell - as at Lord's, he appeared reluctant to leak runs by inviting the drive. However, he was noticeably fuller after the break and having induced a big deflection off the pads into the stumps to send Sarfraz Ahmed on his way for 14, he followed that up by nailing Faheem Ashraf on the knee-roll for a duck. At the other end, Broad had cause to set off on a trademark celebrappeal as he too struck the debutant Usman Salahuddin in front of middle and off, as three wickets tumbled for one run.
Shadab, however, wasn't fazed by the scoreline, and for the third time in consecutive Tests, he pieced together an invaluable half-century - and coaxed key partnerships out of his lower-order colleagues - to help Pakistan add 95 precious runs for their last three wickets.
It took a wide long-hop from Anderson to prise England's next breakthrough, as Mohammad Amir slashed a nick through to the keeper, and when Hasan Ali was undone by a classic bouncer-yorker combo from Woakes for 23, Shadab could only punch his bat in annoyance at the non-striker's end. But he kept on throwing the bat, with Mohammad Abbas loitering alongside him, until he picked out deep midwicket to allow Curran to wrap up the innings with a maiden Test wicket. Curran's 7.1 overs had been dispatched for 33, but he had found more swing than any of his colleagues. A promising start, if nothing more than that.
In reply, England's innings got off to a peculiar start when Keaton Jennings - back in the side as Alastair Cook's new-old opening partner - was warned by the umpires for encroaching on the danger area of the pitch while facing up to Abbas. Jennings had been tormented by Vernon Philander in his last Test appearances against South Africa, and chose to bat way out of his crease to counter Abbas's similarly medium-paced wiles. But in doing so, he transgressed a law that had been quietly tweaked by MCC back in October.
However, Jennings seemed unruffled by the umpire's intervention, and it took a decent delivery from Faheem to extract him for 29 - albeit a familiar crease-bound dismissal to a tight delivery angled across his body.
After that, it was once again over to Cook, who continued his renaissance form with another front-foot-dominant innings as he and Joe Root added 51 for the second wicket. Cook's personal contribution was 46 from 106 balls, including one of the sweetest cover-drives of a Test career that has now encompassed a world-record 154 consecutive appearances. But he was crestfallen at his dismissal, five minutes before stumps, as he swung into a pull against Hasan, and gloved down the leg side.
It was a crucial strike for Pakistan too. Cook had, after all, been head and shoulders above the rest of England's batting at Lord's. And with Dominic Bess joining Root as a nightwatchman, it was a reminder, too, that there is a callowness to England's Test team beneath their record-smashing grandees. For the time being, however, they are just about doing the needful.