A storm in Southampton paused proceedings in the afternoon, but Joe Root’s side came out fighting with three quick wickets to leave them in a strong position before rain came again on the south coast with only 45 overs possible.
The returning Sam Curran struck to remove Abid Ali for 60 shortly after the resumption, before Dom Sibley did well to catch Asad Shafiq in the slips off the bowling of Stuart Broad.
Fawad Alam, who was making his first test appearance in almost 11 years, lasted just four balls before Chris Woakes got him lbw after a good review for a duck to leave the tourists 126-5.
Having won the toss and electing to bat, Pakistan suffered a blow as early as the third over. James Anderson showed that talks of his retirement are non-existent with an excellent delivery that came back in to Shan Masood and trapped the opener lbw for 1.
Whilst the rain proved frustrating, the England opening bowler would prove to be considerably less frustrated than he was during the first Test, where he returned figures of 1-97 and was left feeling hungry to put things right – and he looked like he was doing just that.
It could, and maybe should, have been even better for England. Having to make changes to the slip cordon in Ben Stokes’ absence, they failed their first test as Broad drew a thick edge from Abid, but Sibley came across Rory Burns and the ball went down.
And Burns was later at fault himself as Abid was reprieved for a second time, this time on 21, as Woakes found a thick edge but at chest height he looked to struggle to adjust in time as the ball went in, but popped out.
Whilst Abid was given two lives, there was pressure at the other end on skipper Azhar Ali. Having struggled with his technique in the first test, he looked to steady the ship as the second wicket partnership passed 50 to leave Pakistan 62/1 at lunch – taken slightly earlier due to rain.
Only ten overs were possible before the next rain delay, but in that period England go the breakthrough they deserved.
The hosts had been looking for the edge, and after two drops, it proved to be third time lucky as Azhar Ali nicked Anderson through to Burns, who held on to make it 78/2.
After tea, Abid’s luck finally ran out with Curran bowling an excellent line and Burns making no mistake before Shafiq and Alam fell in quick succession to leave England in the driving seat, only for rain and then bad light in Southampton to deny them the opportunity to really take control of proceedings.