But after two days at the "home of cricket", England were struggling to avoid a sixth defeat in eight Tests.
Pakistan's Mohammad Amir celebrates after snagging the wicket of England's David Malan.
At the Tea break on Day 3, England in the second innings in the Lord's Test - 112 for 6. Jos Buttler, recalled as a specialist number seven, was unbeaten on 13.
Pakistan, whose players are effectively banned from the Indian Premier League, had arguably better preparation for this series than that enjoyed by England's Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler while they were playing in the lucrative Twenyty20 event. He hasn't played any red-ball cricket since December.
But at least Buttler, who finished on 66 not out, and Bess (55 not out) justified their selections and gave their team a bit of confidence ahead of a potentially even more hard five-Test series against top-ranked India.
"With Dom Bess, it was like Joe Root walked back out, with his back foot punches and cover drives, " Buttler added. "He's got a great character and he really showed that".
Though Pakistan can take credit for the way they used the conditions, they were helped by an England team that gave wickets away with a combination of recklessness and indeterminate footwork. A lack of footwork left him in no position to play a Mohammad Amir delivery that held its line up the Lord's slope and clipped the top of off stump.
Pakistan pacemen Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali took four wickets apiece as England suffered yet another top-order collapse at Lord's on Thursday.
Checks revealed a fracture and Azam was ruled out of the remainder of this test and for the second and final test in Leeds.
Cook failed to back up his first-innings 70 as he was pinned on the knee roll by Abbas (2-36) in the second over to fall for his fourth single-figure score in six Test innings, while Stoneman was bowled by leg-spinner Shadab Khan (2-63) from a delivery that kept low after spinning back out of the rough.
Two balls later, Amir shaped a ball through the gate as Bairstow was beaten all ends up. Then came the big one, captain Root, who was trapped lbw Abbas for 68.
After a winter when they surrendered the Ashes and lost in New Zealand, England would have expected to feel more comfortable on home soil, where they have lost only one series in the previous five years.
Buttler and Bess spared England from embarrassment by ensuring the team didn't lose by an innings and pushed on from there, surviving through to the close.