Despite the loss of a full session’s play, England ground out a commanding lead of 128 over Pakistan on day two of the second Test at Headingley.
They ended the day on 302-7, even though no batsman actually cracked fifty. While that may have prevented them from taking a more impressive lead, the accumulation of forties has given England a solid buffer.
England desperately need a good result from this match after their poor showing in the first Test at Lord’s. If they were to lose, they would slip to seventh in the world in the ICC rankings – an 18-year low.
But that seems unlikely now, thanks in no small measure to the sterling performance of their nightwatchman, Dom Bess, who saw off the two overs remaining after Alastair Cook was dismissed in the twilight of day one.
Bess, an off-spinner who owes his place in the side to injuries elsewhere, has proved he can bat: he had a fifty in the first Test at Lord’s and, batting at No 10 for Somerset, he accumulated 92 off 118 balls against Hampshire.
He stayed solid when play resumed at Headingley, while Joe Root – who was on 29 overnight – went on to 49 when he rashly had a go at Mohammad Amir to be caught behind off a thin edge.
He also led Dawid Malan (29) in a stand of 62 for the fourth wicket but was denied a second consecutive Test fifty when taken by a sharp catch in the slips off Shadab Khan.
He is the highest scorer in the England first innings and one of the spin-offs was that he gave England extra depth. Jonny Bairstow (21) and Joss Buttler, now at Nos 6 and 7, put on 48 for the sixth wicket.
Buttler was still there at the end, on 34, with debutant Sam Curran on 16.