RAWALPINDI: Pakistan became the latest victims of ‘Bazball’ when they failed to chase down a fairly achievable target on a placid pitch, giving England “one of their greatest away wins” on the final day of the first Test here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Monday.
Cruising towards a win by tea, Pakistan were subjected to a reverse swing masterclass by pacers James Anderson and Ollie Robinson leaving them desperately trying to save the match as the daylight faded an hour later.
Their last-standing pair of Naseem Shah and Mohammad Ali found themselves in the midst of a dense bunch of close-in fielders and could only last 35 minutes before the former was trapped lbw by Jack Leach, leaving England’s players ecstatic.
A bold declaration by England captain Ben Stokes just ahead of the last session on the penultimate day had worked as it translated into a 74-run win and a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
“It’s a great place to be, and I think it’s up there with one of England’s greatest away Test match wins,” Stokes said at the presentation ceremony. “We’ve done something very special this week.”
Stokes’ gamble to give Pakistan nearly four sessions to have a go at the 343-run target could have worked against England. But that’s what ‘Bazball’ — an aggressive style taken from the nickname of head coach Brendon McCullum — is all about; taking tough risks to win matches.
The victory was England’s seventh in eight matches under McCullum and Stokes after they were installed as coach and captain in May this year.
“We wanted to come here in Pakistan and carry on with our mantra of exciting cricket giving ourselves the best opportunity to win a Test match,” Stokes said. “I have got no interest in playing for draws..we always try to look at the positive option.”
England’s relentlessness, however, was not an excuse good enough for the hosts, who were presented a juicy opportunity to take the lead in a historic Test series.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, who had departed cheaply late on the fourth day, admitted his team missed a golden chance.
“It wasn’t a match to lose,” he said in the post-match press conference. “We are disappointed as a team.”
At tea, Pakistan were 257-5 — needing 86 runs to win in an captivating last session. England needed five wickets, and Robinson struck in the fourth over after the break, trapping Agha Salman leg-before for 30.
In his next over he claimed Azhar Ali for 40 to bring England close to victory.
At the other end, Anderson removed Zahid Mahmood and Haris Rauf in the same over as four wickets fell for just seven runs.
In the end, it was Leach’s left-arm spin which clinched the deal but England could not celebrate right away.
Adjudged lbw, Naseem reviewed the decision and the English players stood anxiously awaiting the outcome before erupting in joy after replays confirmed that the ball would have hit leg stump.
“We had a golden chance to win this Test, but session by session we kept losing wickets,” Babar said.
A total of 1,236 runs were scored by the two sides in their first innings — England 657 and Pakistan 579 -- before the visitors lit up the contest by declaring their second innings at 264-7 on Sunday.
Pakistan were cautious with their approach in the first session as they progressed from an overnight total of 80-2 to 169-3, losing opener Imam-ul-Haq for 48 to Anderson.
Mohammad Rizwan was one of two wickets to fall in the second session for 46, putting on a fighting 87-run stand for the fourth wicket with Saud Shakeel, who showed immense girt as a debutant during his fighting 76.
In the fourth over after lunch, Anderson had Rizwan caught behind while Robinson got Saud to a tremendous catch by substitute Keaton Jennings at short cover.
Intelligent bowling changes and pressuring the Pakistan batters with close-set fields was key in helping England take wickets on regular intervals. “On wickets like this, you have to make things happen — score your runs quickly and then make some pretty rash and bold decisions with the field placing and bowling changes and stuff like that,” said Stokes.
Meanwhile, England all-rounder Liam Livingstone has been ruled out of the remainder of the Pakistan tour after suffering a knee injury in his debut Test at Rawalpindi.
The 29-year-old, who made nine in the first innings and was on seven in the second when England declared, jarred his right knee while fielding on Friday.
“He will return to the UK on Tuesday and commence rehab with the ECB and Lancashire medical teams respectively,” the ECB said in a statement.
ENGLAND (1st Innings) 657 (H. Brook 153, Z. Crawley 122, O. Pope 108, B.Duckett 107; Zahid Mahmood 4-235, Naseem Shah 3-140) PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 579 (Babar Azam 136, Imam-ul-Haq 121, Abdullah Shafique 114; W. Jacks 6-161) ENGLAND (2nd Innings): Z. Crawley c Rizwan b Ali 50 B. Duckett c Salman b Naseem 0 O. Pope c Naseem b Ali 15 J. Root c Haq b Mahmood 73 H. Brook b Naseem 87 B. Stokes c Shakeel b Zahid 0 W. Jacks c Haq b Salman 24 L. Livingstone not out 7 EXTRAS (LB-3, NB-5) 8 TOTAL (for 7 wickets decl, 35.5 overs) 264 DID NOT BAT: O. Robinson, J. Leach, J. Anderson FALL OF WICKETS: 1-1 (Duckett), 2-36 (Pope), 3-96 (Crawley), 4-192 (Root), 5-192 (Stokes), 6-248 (Jacks), 7-264 (Brook) BOWLING: Naseem 9.5-0-66-2 (1nb), Ali 10-0-64-2 (3nb), Zahid 11-1-84-2, Agha 5-0-47-1 (1nb)
PAKISTAN (2nd Innings, overnight 80-2): Abdullah Shafique c Brook b Robinson 6 Imam-ul-Haq c Pope b Anderson 48 Azhar Ali c Root b Robinson 40 Babar Azam c Pope b Stokes 4 Saud Shakeel c sub b Robinson 76 Mohammad Rizwan c Pope b Anderson 46 Agha Salman lbw b Robinson 30 Naseem Shah lbw b Leach 6 Zahid Mahmood c Pope b Anderson 1 Haris Rauf lbw b Anderson 0 Mohammad Ali not out 0 EXTRAS (LB-3, NB-8) 11 TOTAL (all out; 96.3 overs) 268 FALL OF WICKETS: 1-20 (Abdullah), 2-25 (Babar), 3-89 (Imam), 4-176 (Rizwan), 5-198 (Saud), 6-259 (Salman), 7-260 (Azhar), 8-264 (Zahid), 9-264 (Haris) BOWLING: Robinson 22-6-50-4 (5nb), Stokes 20-4-69-1 (3nb), Anderson 24-12-36-4, Leach 18.3-6-56-1, Jacks 6-0-38-0, Root 6-0-16-0 RESULT: England won by 74 runs. MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Ollie Robinson
Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2022