A game to remember for the ages- England’s stunning win in the first test in Rawalpindi will not be forgotten anytime soon. On a pitch that resembled a highway for the most part, the visitors claimed an unlikely win to go 1-0 up in the three test series. It was only England’s third ever test win in the country- the previous two had come way back in 1961 and 2000, and put skipper Ben Stokes into elite company. Here are our talking points from the final day of action.
Brave captaincy from Stokes
On a pitch where his side had themselves scored a whopping 921 runs across both innings at a rate of 6.72, it would’ve taken a brave captain to give his opponents four sessions to score only 343 in the final innings. There wasn’t much in it for the bowlers, but England kept chipping away, and their persistence was justly rewarded.
It was one of those games where even neutrals wanted England to win because they were clearly the only team attempting to make a match out of it. Earlier in the year, the same pitch had produced a dull draw when Australia toured, and that would’ve probably been the case again here had the opponents been anybody other than England. Their brand of cricket is refreshing to watch, and games like this will only breathe new life into test cricket.
Pakistan fluff their lines
As mentioned before, 343 in 100-110 odd overs (four sessions and keeping bad light as a factor) was a very achievable target for Pakistan in these conditions. It was a brave declaration from England, and the hosts would’ve definitely fancied their chances, having scored 579 in the first innings at 3.72.
Unfortunately, they seemed to be in two minds at various points in the chase, undecided on whether to go firmly for the win or play for the safety of the draw. That showed in the nature of their dismissals- until Ollie Robinson got the ball to reverse later in the innings, none of their batsmen could be said as having got out to an unplayable delivery. Wickets kept falling at regular intervals, and they eventually lost by 78 runs.
England are now favourites for the series according to NJ.Bet and for good reason- they’re also likely to have the pacy Mark Wood back for the second test in Multan (which is generally a batsman friendly wicket) while Pakistan have lost Haris Rauf to injury.
Leg side strangles work for England
Three batsmen fell trying to tickle the ball down to fine leg- Imam Ul Haq, Azhar Ali and Zahid Mahmood. Imam and Zahid (the latter an absolutely brilliant catch) were caught by stand-in keeper Ollie Pope, while Azhar was taken at leg slip. Not the way you’d generally look to dismiss players at this level, but luck was with England and perhaps rightly so. Pakistan’s chances of qualifying for the WTC final have taken a huge blow with this defeat.
England’s pace attack excellent
The troika of Ollie Robinson, veteran James Anderson and skipper Stokes were excellent, picking up wickets at regular intervals. At 176/3 and 259/5, Pakistan looked as if they were taking control of the game, but England hit back with wickets at just the right time. These two teams had competed in the T20 World Cup final a month ago, and despite the change in format, this was again a fine game for the neutrals.
Despite his age, Anderson was excellent on the final day. Robinson got the ball to reverse late in the innings, while Stokes, despite suffering from injury, sent down 20 overs because pace seemed to be working better than spin on the final day.