SARAH WARIS | 13 JUNE, 2018
5 Things we Learnt From the England-Pakistan Test
5 Things we Learnt From the England-Pakistan Test
After being decimated by Pakistan in the first Test match of the two-game series, England needed a professional display with both bat and ball to stage a comeback and snap an eight-Test winless streak in the format. With embarrassing defeats in the Ashes and the New Zealand series that followed, the Joe Root-led side were expected to make a strong return at home, which was undone by a spirited Pakistan unit at Lord’s.
However, with Babar Azam out injured for the second game at Headingley at Leeds, the visiting side lacked the firepower to tackle the Englishman, losing by an innings and 55 runs on Day 3. Here are the 5 things we learnt from the series that ended 1-1.
England’s opening woes continue
Ever since Andrew Strauss, former England skipper and opener, retired from the game in 2012, the English team have been unable to find a suitable replacement at the top for him. Since August 2012, the side has tried 13 openers, who have a culminative average of 24.36 with only 6 centuries between them. Other than Alastair Cook, the side has failed to find a consistent opener, which has lead to their downfall more often than not.
Mark Stoneman was included for the first game after an impressive knock of 60 in the previous Test in New Zealand but only 13 runs in two innings pushed for his ouster. Keaton Jennings, who had scored a century at the top before was drafted in his place at Leeds, but the South African-born too failed to impress, scoring 29. The importance of a renowned opener who can stay put on the crease while seeing away the new ball is well documented, and with an important series against India coming up, England need to sort out their opening woes.
Pakistan’s pace bowling continues to impress
While the sub-continent has always been known as a country that produces fine batsmen, the land of Pakistan has been famous for producing one fast bowling match-winner after another. At Lord’s, the fast bowling duo of Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali constantly troubled the rivals with their accurate line, length and pace. Abbas in particular impressed the most, picking up 4 wickets in each innings to end with a match-haul of 8 wickets. With tight control and movement in the air, Abbas might not have the pace to go with him but with almost 55% of his balls pitched in the good length area and with subtle variations, the 28-year-old has proved to be a find.
Ali and Faheem Ashraf were the able supporters, picking up 6 and 4 wickets respectively in three innings as Amir was back to his former threatening self, scalping 7 wickets. Together, the four troubled the vulnerable English batsmen with immaculate usage of the seam ball and even though the old ball did not reverse swing, they can take heart from a more-than-decent showing with the red cherry throughout the tour of the UK.
Jos Buttler is here to stay
The inclusion of Jos Buttler in the Test squad after 18 months on the back of his IPL performances did not go down well with a few cricketing legends in England, who were ready to diss aside the new chief selector Ed Smith for picking a player based on his shorter format returns. Buttler had scored 5 consecutive IPL fifties before he rushed back to play for England, and he surprised with his maturity and his temperament. In the first Test, he arrived with England struggling at 110 for 6 in the second innings and along with debutant Dominic Bess forewent his natural game to wear out the bowlers. He struck 67 in in 138 balls with a strike-rate of 48.55, which showed that he does have the knack of playing according to the situation.
At Leeds, he arrived with the scorecard reading 212 for the loss of 5 wickets and went on to score an unbeaten 80 that took the total to 363. He won the Man of the Match award for his heroics and even though he was lucky to be dropped on four in that innings, England should consider themselves lucky to have found a player at number 7 who can counter-attack or play patiently according to the demands of the situation.
Dominic Bess has sealed his spot for the India Tests
Even though the Somerset all-rounder was picked in the squad for his off-break bowling, Dominic Bess came to the party with the bat before he had the chance to impress with the ball. In the first game, he accompanied Buttler to score a handy fifty and in the second match, scored a crucial 49 to take his run- tally in the series to 111. He picked up his first wicket in the last innings of the Test series, as he sent back Imam-ul-Haq. He finished with two more wickets to finish with three for 33 and even though he was included as a replacement to injured Jack Leach, the young 20-year-old Bess has done enough to stake a claim in the playing eleven against India.
More importantly, it was his competitive nature and his effervescent streak with the intent of contributing that stood out and he proved to be one of the biggest positives for the home side.
Pakistan’s fighting nature comes to the fore
For years, the Pakistani cricket team has made a name for being one of the most unpredictable sides in the world of cricket. This was apparent in this series as well, as the team flourished to win at Lord’s and then succumbed to a defeat inside three days at Headingley. However, the emergence of the youngsters who are filled with determination is what made this series such a compelling one.
If it was a team performance in the first game with vital contributions from both batsmen and bowlers that helped them win a memorable game at Lord’s, in second it was Shadab Khan with a fighting fifty who stood out with a counter-attacking knock even when the players around him were unable to withstand Stuart Broad’s onslaught. With Imam, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq all standing up in the batting front and with their bowling already taken care of, the team from Asia can turn into a force to reckon with soon.