Ben Stokes’ captaincy moved to even more impressive heights with a largely dominant 78-run win over hosts Pakistan in Rawalpindi. In the early stages of this test, much was made of the playing surface and how flat it was.
Simply put, the pitch appeared to be easy to bat where even I could have got a fifty on that deck. As much as I would love a trip to the land of the pure, England’s cricket team had that honour and acquitted themselves masterfully.
Batting first the tourists posted 657 all out. At one stage, it appeared that Sri Lanka’s record of the highest innings score in a test (965) was in danger of getting broken.
In yesteryear, maybe England would have tried to have gone for this record. But Baz and Ben are new-school, they play test match cricket like it’s a 100-over game.
Many records were broken in this innings such as the highest number of runs scored in one day (506) and four batsmen scoring centuries in the same innings. Pakistan did try to go toe to toe with England.
Abdullah Shafique (114), Imam Ul-Haq (121) and Babar Azam (136) were the three men for the 2009 T20 world champions. Zak Crawley (122), Ben Duckett (107), Ollie Pope, (108) and Harry Brook (153) were the four men to hit three figures for the tourists.
Runs were a plenty and it seemed wickets were at a premium, but as the match wore on, the wicket … wore on. Ben Stokes’ England made a sporting declaration by declaring on 264-7.
To put it simply, Pakistan needed 343 to win the first test match in what is England’s first in the country for 17 years. Babar Azam’s men got their run chase off to the worst possible start.
First innings centurion Shafique was out for six. Another first-innings centurion, skipper Babar was out for four, which meant Pakistan were 25-2.
Things looked very bleak, due to veteran Azhar Ali having to retire hurt.
Imam and Saud Shakeel steadied the ship of sorts, but the Pakistani opener Ul-Haq was out caught behind for 48. Another opening presented itself to tourists England.
Vice-captain Mohammed Rizwan and debutant Shakeel appeared to be thwarting England, and trickling towards the winning line, until disaster. Just like Imam, Rizwan too was out caught behind off the bowling of James Anderson.
Agha Salman backed his fifty in the first innings with a battling 30. Unfortunately for Babar and his troops, what was a ‘road’, was now a very tricky pitch to achieve survival and parity in the first test.
Naseem Shah, Mohammed Ali and Zahid Mahmood did as tail-enders wag their tail, but England spear-headed by James Anderson and Ollie Robinson were too good for Pakistan’s lower-order.
So England take the first test, in what is just their third test win in Pakistan, but it was thoroughly deserved. As for hosts Pakistan, expect several changes. They were no way near good enough.
The second test in Multan is from 9th-13th December.
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