With Pindi thriller, England continue changing Test cricket

By, Kolkata
Dec 05, 2022 10:04 PM IST

Not only did England score 921 runs from 821 balls, they also took 20 wickets on a featherbed to win the Rawalpindi game by 74 runs

Are you not entertained? Because it matters to England. This is what happens when you delete ‘draw’ from your Test vocabulary—snatch an improbable win at the Pindi stadium with just about eight minutes of daylight remaining in the final session.

England's players celebrate after the dismissal of Pakistan's Salman Ali Agha (not pictured) during the fifth and final day of the first cricket Test match between Pakistan and England
England's players celebrate after the dismissal of Pakistan's Salman Ali Agha (not pictured) during the fifth and final day of the first cricket Test match between Pakistan and England

Lahore 1961, Karachi 2000 and now this, England have won just three Tests in Pakistan in 25 attempts but Monday’s 74-run victory will be remembered more for the manner in which this English side is revolutionising Test cricket. "We wanted to come here and carry on with our mantra of exciting cricket giving ourselves the best opportunity to win a Test," England captain Ben Stokes said after the match. "I have got no interest in playing for the draws... we always try to look at the positive option."

In absolute terms, England have already undergone a massive change—winning seven and losing one Test since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over as captain and coach in May. Each of those results has been the culmination of a no-holds-barred brand of cricket, be it chasing 299 in 50 overs against New Zealand, 378 in 77 overs against India, or declaring at 264/7 here despite the temptation of continuing on a placid, torturous pitch in the first game of a Pakistan Test tour after 18 years. Never taking their foot off the gas, England ensured this Test finished third on the list of highest match aggregates—1,768 runs scored, 921 from only 821 balls by England while taking 20 Pakistan wickets in a ringing endorsement of their brand of cricket.

"From day one, we were going to have to score these runs quickly,” Stokes told Sky Sports after the match. “It was going to be a batting error that was going to get the batsman out on this wicket, because there wasn't any swing, there wasn't any spin. So, we had to really capitalise on that fact.” Several passages of play—from Joe Root batting left-handed in the first innings to James Anderson resorting to a short-ball tactic and Harry Brook following his 80-ball hundred with a stupendous 65-ball 87—encapsulate England’s reinvigorated outlook.

Stokes picked Brook’s second innings. “He could have cruised to a hundred, but we had about half an hour left until the tea break. We just sent the message out, saying "put your foot down now because we're going to declare at tea". There was no second guessing ourselves on that because that's how we wanted to go into day five. We don't want people turning the TV off because it might be the inevitable draw.”

Needing 263 to win with eight wickets in hand at the start of the day, Pakistan were voluntary participants in this enthralling joust as well. Mohammad Rizwan wasn’t holding back his shots. Neither was Saud Shakeel in an 87-run stand for the fourth wicket till Anderson got Rizwan to edge to the wicketkeeper. Substitute fielder Keaton Jennings then flung himself to his right at short extra cover to catch Shakeel and suddenly the momentum had shifted in England’s favour. With the ball reversing now, England kept chipping away till left-arm spinner Jack Leach trapped a resilient Naseem Shah leg-before in the fading light of Rawalpindi, sealing a win for the ages.

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    Somshuvra Laha is a sports journalist with over 11 years' experience writing on cricket, football and other sports. He has covered the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 2016 ICC World Twenty20, cricket tours of South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh and the 2010 Commonwealth Games for Hindustan Times.

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