HomeCricketEngland pip Pakistan in fairytale comeback win

England pip Pakistan in fairytale comeback win

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Pakistan tour of England, First Test at Emirates Old Trafford, Day 4: Pak (2nd innings) 169 all out (Yasir Shah 33, Asad Shafique 29), set Eng a target of 277. Eng 277/7 (Chris Woakes 84*, Jos Buttler 75). England won by three wickets

Pakistan held all the aces when the stumps were drawn on Day 3. Although the scorecard read a woeful 137/8 as the day wound to a close, they were sitting on an overall lead of 244 runs.

Another 30 or 40 runs on the fourth morning would take them to a position from where England can only think of saving the game. Right? Or so they thought.

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Day 4 proceedings began on a bright note for Pakistan as leggie Yasir Shah, unbeaten on 12 overnight, came out swinging.

He used the long handle to good effect, striking some lusty blows and taking Pakistan’s lead to 276. The ninth-wicket partnership yielded a priceless 21 runs before the Pakistan innings closed at 169.

With 276 runs behind them, Pakistani opening bowlers steamed in, looking for early blows.

A new ball specialist, Mohammad Abbas struck gold when he trapped Rory Burns leg before for 10.

With the fourth-day affording enough turn and bounce and the spinners tipped to do most of the damage, Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali introduced Yasir Shah fairly early in the innings. 

And before long, the 34-year-old leggie was into the wickets column.

Opener Dom Sibley looked to have settled in nicely before he was caught by Asad Shafique off Yasir Shah. 

He along with his skipper had been steadily building a partnership after losing out left-handed Rory Burns quite early and cheaply.

Yasir Shah- England vs Pakistan First test at Emirates Old Trafford
Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali introduced Yasir Shah fairly early in the innings and reaped dividends. (Credits: Twitter/ ICC)

Hopelessly out of nick, England captain Joe Root looked in the best form he has been in recent times, striking seven boundaries.

He seemed to be silencing his detractors and answering England’s call for a captain’s knock when, at 42, he edged to Babar Azam in the slips off young tearaway Naseem Shah.

Root’s scalp brought two more in quick time as Yasir Shah and Shaheen Afridi sent back Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope cheaply. 

Match wining partnership

However, just when Pakistan would have hoped to close the England innings early and record a facile win, keeper Jos Buttler and all-rounder Chris Woakes got together for what would turn out to be a match-turning and winning partnership.

With the Pakistan bowlers on top and English hopes fading fast, Buttler and Woakes took the attack to them in a bid to put them off their lines and lengths. Yasir, who looked to be settling into a rhythm, was picked for boundaries.

Buttler took a special liking for the leggie, scoring runs off him freely and even bringing out the reverse sweep to send him to the ropes.

Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler- England vs Pakistan First test at Emirates Old Trafford
Just when it appeared Pakistan were on their way to finish things off, Woakes and Buttler put together a match-winning partnership. (Credits: Twitter/ ICC)

 Woakes, too, grew in confidence and started dealing in boundaries. Clearly unnerved by the Buttler-Woakes partnership, Ali employed some strange tactics on the field, even leaving the commentators flummoxed.

For starters, he persisted with Yasir without giving him a close-in field. It was bizarre, with the Day-4 pitch cracking up and the ball turning square.

Secondly, Shadab Khan, the other leg-spinner in the team, was strangely under-bowled. While Yasir sent down 30 overs, Shadab bowled just 8. 

Thirdly, even with the target narrowing all the time, Ali persisted with his spinners instead of bringing back his fast bowlers to break the stand. It wasn’t until the deficit had been reduced to just 21 runs when Naseem and Shaheen were brought back in the desperate hope of wickets.

By then, however, the match had clearly slipped from Pakistan’s hands.

Although Buttler fell before the winning runs were scored, Woakes, in the company of his seam-bowling mate Stuart Broad, took England past the finish line. The Buttler-Woakes association produced 139 runs, virtually turning the match England’s way.

As some experts rightly put it, it was a game of two sessions- post-tea session on Day 3 when Pakistan collapsed in their second dig and the final session on Day 4 when Buttler and Woakes put together a match-winning partnership.

Though England chased down 277, the first successful chase at the Emirates Old Trafford since 2008, the Pakistan skipper was adamant they had enough runs to defend. “We had the opportunity to bat England out of the game.

But I still believe this total was enough for us,” the Pakistan skipper said at the post-match presentation.

All said and done, this Test was Pakistan’s to lose but they allowed England to sneak in through the backdoor, with disastrous consequences.

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