Match Analysis

Pakistan seize the home-from-home comforts

There has been much talk in recent years about the disproportionate value of home advantage in Test cricket. But, during this Edgbaston Test at least, Pakistan have shown the greater ability to adapt

Had Pakistan moved their kit into the England dressing-room they could hardly have made themselves more at home at Edgbaston.
Having shown England how to bowl in such conditions on the first day, they showed them how to bat in them on the second. From the moment Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and took the bold decision to field first, Pakistan have demonstrated a better understanding of the ground that Stuart Broad referred to as "England's Gabba." If they also provided local restaurant recommendations and the best tips on avoiding the traffic, it would be no surprise.
Even in selection, they have shown the way for England. By dropping Shan Masood for Sami Aslam, they have shown decisive decision-making that makes England's "rather give a player one Test too many" policy appear cautious and laboured. Continuity of selection is clearly a fine policy in general but, taken to extremes, it can become a burden. Several times in the last year or two, England have gone into Tests with players low in confidence and with their places hanging by a string. It is hard to think of a single occasion - not with Trott, not with Compton, not with Lyth and not, as yet, with James Vince - when it has worked.
Aslam showed England how to bat in England. He left more deliveries than the whole of England's top four combined. He left the sort of deliveries that dismissed Joe Root and Vince. He defended with the sort of conviction that might have saved Alex Hales, and he rotated the strike and accumulated in a way that might have alleviated the pressure on Vince. And yet Aslam is a 20-year-old playing his first Test outside Asia, and his first first-class game of the year.
It was similar on the first day. Sohail Khan, also playing his third Test and his first outside Asia, provided a masterclass in bowling on the sort of slow, seaming wickets that are so prevalent in England. He made the batsmen play, didn't waste effort on too many short deliveries and he bowled the full length that ensured he optimised any lateral movement on offer.
England had patches in which they bowled very well. Straight after lunch, James Anderson and Stuart Broad delivered tight spells which demanded respect from the Pakistan batsmen. At no stage did England allow the Pakistan run-rate to build. As a result, they have maintained a foot-hold in this match.
But, by then, they had largely squandered the new ball. They had failed to make the Pakistan batsmen play at enough deliveries and allowed them to play themselves in. The insistence on giving the new ball to the labouring Broad, in particular, when Chris Woakes has emerged as England's most dangerous seamer, increasingly looks inflexible and stubborn, while Steven Finn was rarely threatening on a pitch offering him little. By going at more than four an over Moeen Ali, too, struggled to hold down an end. And that really is a substantial part of his role in this side.
That all left England reliant on Plan B. But if a team is going to bowl dry and wait for the batsman's mistake, they have to make sure they take their chances. Joe Root's dropped catch here was not easy, but nor was it the first slip chance they have put down this summer. Ben Stokes, with bat, ball and for his catching, is keenly missed.
England could claim, with some justification, that these conditions do them few favours. They might, at a push, even claim such slow, low wickets have more similarity to those found in the UAE than those they might prefer to find at home. And it is true, there is none of the steep bounce that might exploit Pakistan's potential frailties and this surface lacks the carry to exploit some of the edges that might have carried to the slips. Certainly, there has been very little home advantage exploited by England in this series.
But England can't sulk like truculent teenagers - and for a large part of the day, Anderson did look very much as if he had been asked to tidy his bedroom before he was allowed on his skateboard - every time they are not gifted a green seamer. They're not going to find any green wickets in India or Bangladesh this winter. And they're not going to find any in Australia the winter after. If they are going to be the best side in the world, they have to prove they can be potent in a variety of conditions.
To be fair to Anderson, he admitted as much after play. As well as apologising to the umpires, he conceded that they "could have bowled better" and that their "average batting" had "got us in this situation".
Besides, the suspicion remains that conditions had not eased so much for batsmen from day one to day two. The suspicion remains that, while England's batsmen pushed at balls they could have left, Pakistan's waited for them and had the patience to build at under three an over. We will see for sure when Pakistan bowl for a second time, but the suspicion remains that their bowlers simply gained a little more from the surface than England's and that their batsmen sold their wickets more dearly.
Misbah's decision to bowl first has been hailed, in some quarters, as a masterstroke. But had anyone asked the Edgbaston groundsman ahead of the game, they would have heard him talk of the potential virtues of such a decision. They would have heard him suggest that the wickets here tend to be at their best for batting on day two and three and warn that, in the first few hours of the game, the bowlers would gain more assistance than at any other time. He also believes there will be little assistance for spinners and that the pitch is unlikely to deteriorate noticeably. It is, in short, a pretty typical contemporary Edgbaston surface.
There has been much talk in recent years about the disproportionate value of home advantage in Test cricket. But, during this Edgbaston Test at least, Pakistan have shown the greater ability to adapt and the better technique to exploit such conditions. It has given them an outstanding opportunity to build a match-defining lead on day three.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo