ENGLAND’S delight at an outstanding collective performance with the ball in Sharjah was tempered by their concern over Ben Stokes’ shoulder injury.
Stokes was in obvious pain after falling awkwardly as he tried to pull off what would have been a brilliant catch and left the field on day one of the must-win third Test against Pakistan with his right arm in a sling.
Stuart Broad, who was wonderfully disciplined and economical as he and James Anderson took six for 30 between them to help bowl the hosts out for 234, is still hoping Stokes may be able to play some part in the remainder of the match.
Visual evidence suggests the all-rounder may well be out for a significant length of time – but that will depend, of course, on a full diagnosis which will be known only after scans this lunchtime.
Stokes hurled himself to his left to try to catch Sarfraz Ahmed during an evening session in which the sixth-wicket stand of 80 with captain Misbah-ul-Haq (71) was soon broken anyway – and Pakistan then lasted only another eight overs.
Anderson (four for 17) doubled his wicket tally with the second new ball and he and Broad each conceded barely a run an over.
Stokes’ condition was still on their minds, however, as they left the field after a job well done.
“We all walked in straight away to try to find him,” said Broad. “He’s a tough guy. So generally when he shows pain, he’s going to be sore.
“It was an amazing effort to try to take the catch.”
England’s medics were unable to say for sure whether Stokes had dislocated his shoulder – an injury which can take three months or more for a full recovery, and might therefore jeopardise his place on the next Test tour to South Africa. “The outfield is very soft, so he landed a bit awkwardly on it,” added Broad.
“I don’t know whether it popped out but he’s having a scan tomorrow, I think, after lunch. It’s hard to speculate what it is. But he’s obviously a bit down.
“We [still] hope he can play a bit more part in this Test match, because he’s obviously a vital cog in our machine.
“But we also do have cover with bat and ball, a lot of options, if he can’t.”
Stokes’ injury apart, England had much to smile about as they try to level the series at 1-1.
“We’re delighted,” said Broad. You are on any day of Test cricket when you get ten wickets.
“No one knows if 230 is a good score, because it turned quite considerably today, and the outfield is amazingly slow. But if we have a good day with the bat tomorrow it makes today and excellent day.”
Broad’s figures were remarkable almost throughout – and even after conceding eight runs in his last over, they read 13-8-13-2.
It was reward for unerring accuracy and determination.
He said: “It’s a patience game. When the ball’s not particularly seaming or swinging, your job as a seamer is to create pressure.
“We talked, before we went out there today, the three of us, that the more maidens we can bowl – if we then get two wickets quickly – you’re really in the game.
“That was our aim from ball one, just to try to bowl as many maidens as we could.”
England must bat well too, though, having reached stumps on four without loss and Pakistan bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed is confident his team can battle back.
He said: “The most important thing is stick to the basics. You don’t chase the game yet.
“You’ve almost got around 240 runs on the board. If we can get them out within that score, then the game is still on.”