The weather allowed just 45.4 overs on the first day and now, with only 41.2 following on the second, it has been a frustrating start to this Test match. First the issue was rain, then bad light. The weather is currently winning and if you are the sort who trusts the forecast it is going to stay on top.
England should be the more frustrated side by the second day’s events – although their top order might be relieved that Pakistan remain nine down in their first innings, meaning Mohammad Abbas’s role has so far been limited to batting, rather than wobbling the baulk into their front pads.
Rain delayed the start by 90 minutes, and they began with an hour-long morning session. In that period, Babar and Rizwan were excellent in the face of solid bowling. Neither drove much, and they took no risks. Back-foot punches into the legside from Babar lifted the gloom, but Pakistan went nowhere fast; that did not matter.
When England returned from lunch, they were better, and Stuart Broad had Babar caught behind with a beauty that did just enough. Until then, on the first day and second, Babar had looked rock solid, and it takes good deliveries to get him out right now. In his next over, a Broad bouncer created another chance, which Jos Buttler did well to get to. Alas he could not cling on to Rizwan’s feather.
Yasir Shah was not for hanging around, and he drove wildly at Jimmy Anderson, who took Test wicket 593. Rizwan found more obdurate support from Shaheen Shah Afridi, who survived 19 balls for his duck, and Abbas, who lasted 20 in a stand of 39 for his two.
Both men led slightly charmed lives as England lost their way. Afridi ran himself out, with Dom Sibley pulling off his second excellent direct hit in as many matches, but only after a low catch to Joe Root at first slip squeezed through his fingers and was grassed. England have missed a chance at first, second and third slip in this Test. Abbas survived an England lbw review, as the hosts bowled poorly with the new ball, and Rizwan played some delightful shots in passing fifty.
Not long after 4pm, the umpires took them off for bad light, when visibility was just fine. They took tea and returned promptly, at which point Broad trapped Abbas lbw. That gave Broad his seventh haul of three wickets or more in seven innings this summer, the longest such run for an England player since Graeme Swann in 2009. For an English seamer, you have to go back to Darren Gough in 2001. Broad has 25 wickets at 12.6 this summer.
Moments later, they were off again – this time for good. It seems extraordinary that in 2020, dozens of years after cricket was first played under floodlights, we still have quite so many stoppages for bad light. Pakistan's T20 players were able to play a friendly among themselves on the Nursery Ground, without floodlights, but the Test match with a TV audience of millions was suspended.
The regulations cannot be fit for purpose, but a little more desire on behalf of the officials would be welcome too, not least when so much effort and expense has gone into staging these matches. Cricket does not help itself.