England have been playing Test for a long time, several legends, including Nasser Hussain, Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Alastair Cook have come and gone but this new-age England team is a different gravy. Throughout the last few months, several pundits, including Nasser have openly applauded the fearless approach shown by this Three Lions setup, under the tutelage of Brendon McCullum.
But most of that was at home. Pakistan really was the first Test for this fearless approach and it is safe to say that England have nailed this test too with some perfection. Ben Stokes as a captain has led the side with aplomb. With just a lead of 342 runs, Stokes took the bold decision of declaring, setting up a proper contest with all three results on the table.
“We wanted to come here to Pakistan and carry on with our mantra of exciting cricket. I've got no interest in trying to play for a draw, the dressing room has no interest in playing for a draw. Felt on this kind of wicket, almost had to entice the batsmen to play an attacking shot,” Stokes said in the aftermath of the win in Rawalpindi.
Stokes also talked about some of the brave decisions that the management took ahead of the Test, including handing the gloves to Ollie Pope, with Will Jacks making his Test debut alongside Liam Livingstone. The decision paid off, with all three of them making an impact. Jacks, in particular starred with the ball, with six wickets in the first innings.
“Some of the things we can't plan for is what happened to the squad before the Test. Seems a long time ago when we were running around to find players for the Test. Will Jacks getting the message three minutes before toss, and Pope getting the gloves,” he added.
England broke several records after the end of day one’s play here in Rawalpindi, with five of the batters crossing the three-figure mark, on what was a historic day for Test cricket. Stokes admitted that it was the batting surface that really allowed them to play such an ultra-aggressive brand of cricket.
“We've played 8-9 matches with myself and Brendon in charge. One thing we try to do is focus on ourselves and not the opposition. We know we're a very exciting team. Was a great batting surface, so it was an opportunity for our batting group. Having the lads truck in like they did today was amazing. Really special group of players,” he insisted.
However, it wasn’t all. Despite declaring pretty early, there were still a good chance of the match ending in a draw. With only 10 minutes left in the game, Stokes wasn’t hesitant to throw the ball to his premier spinner, Jack Leach, who trapped the determined Naseem Shah in front of the stumps. Stokes called it as “one of England’s greatest away wins”.
“Today we were fortunate to get the ball reverse-swinging. James Anderson and Ollie Robinson were fantastic today. We won probably about 8 minutes before we would've come off. This is probably up there as one of England's greatest away wins.”
Babar admits Pakistan were not up to the mark
Whilst England played a threatening brand of cricket, Pakistan were mere spectators at their own home, with the way they batted in the first innings. After the show from the top three, none of the middle-order batters, threatened to take the game away from the visitors. Babar Azam, in the post-match presentation admitted that the hosts were not up to the mark.
“We were not upto the mark. Had a golden chance in the second innings, but session by session we lost wickets. Our bowling group is young. Unfortunately Haris injured himself in the first innings. All credit to the bowlers who bowled well and tried without Haris. We try to stick to our plans.”
Babar agreed that England’s blitzkrieg kind of approach with the bat, where they scored at nearly 7 RPO throughout the match, put them under immense pressure. Having said that, Babar reckoned there were plenty of positives for them to take away form the game.
“Difficult when opponent goes at 7 an over. We had an opportunity in the second innings. But we didn't get partnerships in the end. Lot of positives. Our batting performed very well. Bowling also very well.