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Alastair Cook's decision to not enforce follow on criticised by former England captains

Rain could save Pakistan from defeat and thwart England from levelling the series. With Manchester weather, you never know, says local boy.

England are 489 runs ahead with two days left – but could rain save Pakistan and make Cook’s plan backfire?

If Pakistan’s woeful collapse in the 2nd Test against England at Old Trafford surprised, what surprised even more was Alastair Cook’s decision to not enforce the follow-on, despite having a lead of 391 runs with half the match still to play – the fifth highest lead where this has happened in the long history of Test cricket. The decision received a bit of a setback due to weather, but England are still poised to claim the 2nd Test. However, Cook’s decision has expectedly polarised opinion.

England almost had half of the third day and two more days to bat, but rain stole a large part of the time on Sunday. There were three rain stoppages after England came on to bat, interrupting what was must have been planned to have been an even more attacking display. Only 21 overs of Pakistani bowling were possible before stumps were drawn, and about 17 overs have been lost.

With cloud cover predicted over Old Trafford the next two days, more of the 180 overs might be lost. Showers have been forecast for Day 5, while intermittent cloud and sun is expected on Monday.

England are 489 runs ahead with Cook and Joe Root at the crease, and the few remaining questions are - when will the declaration come? Will rain come down to thwart England and prove Cook's decision to have been suicidal? Could the Pakistani batsmen, perhaps with assistance from stoppages, put up a staunch defence on the two remaining days?

Misbah-ul-Haq can be counted upon to play forward defences all day long from one end. Can the Pakistani batting order muster up enough power to give him enough support?

Cook’s decision criticised by former England captains

“There wasn’t a lot of discussion,” said England assistant coach Paul Farbrace. “It was a simple conversation and, when you make them, it’s up to us to now back it up. There’s plenty of time to make sure the decision is right. Ultimately the decision comes down to the captain – that’s how this team works – but I don’t think any of us were against it.”

He also explained that Pakistan had not been put into bat again because of two main reasons – England wanted to bat before the pitch deteriorated, and they wanted to give their bowlers a rest before having a go at the visitors again. Ben Stokes and James Anderson are both returning from injuries.

Michael Vaughan told BBC’s Test Match Special: “I’m absolutely staggered. They are 391 runs ahead and there have been intervals – 391 runs! Win the game today. Why delay it? What happens if it rains again?”

Atherton, on Sky Sports, said: “If I was captain I think I would have enforced the follow-on. The bowlers were reasonably fresh and there is cloud cover, Pakistan’s top order is also vulnerable and here in Manchester – being a local boy – you can’t always be sure of two days’ good weather.”

Shane Warne said: “It is perfect bowling conditions with the ball nipping around and, if you walked out to toss the coin now, you would bowl first, which is why everyone is surprised.”

Nasser Hussain said: “I can’t see a downside to enforcing it. The pitch isn’t going to become a minefield, like it can in places like Kolkata. With the rain England’s bowlers are getting a rest anyway, so with hindsight perhaps Cook might have put Pakistan in again.”

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