England pierce through Yasir Shah’s smog to level series 1-1
The series with Pakistan was expected to be tough particularly after the Sri Lankan one but England seemed to be languishing in the comfort of their victories and didn’t look ready to face Pakistan as they went into the Lords Test match. Winning the toss gave Pakistan a huge impetus to bat on a flat wicket. England did create a stir by reducing them to 104-4 but lost command after the partnership between Misbah-ul-Haq and Shafiq of 138 runs, with Pakistan setting a good total of 339.
Amidst this flourishing partnership, Chris Woakes’ maiden five wicket haul was a silver lining to England’s average bowling display. Woakes’ worth and skill was well known in county cricket but the best of him was yet to be seen on the international stage. As a batsman, he has the ability to rotate strike and form vital partnerships with both the middle order and tail. He has been bowling a very penetrating length with occasional bounce, which is very menacing, particularly for Asian batsmen. England looked far from trouble being 118-1 but were in tatters the moment Yasir Shah came into the attack and skittled the middle order, taking an excellent 5 wicket haul. Woakes was clinical again though, taking another five-fer and bowling out Pakistan for a modest total of 215, compounded with the lead, England had to score 283. Sadly, England’s chase was unsuccessful from the very start; as Alastair Cook said: “We played too many bad shots”. Bairstow and Woakes batted with some grit and patience but it proved futile. Yasir Shah made the difference between the two sides and Pakistan won by 75 runs.
Between the matches there was much brouhaha about Yasir’s ‘genius’ leg-spin but in my opinion many of the wickets he got was because of England’s tentativeness and ill-timed shots. Moeen Ali’s shot in the 2nd innings was a testament to this.
The 2nd Test at Old Trafford not only sealed a brilliant victory for England but also showed that England were capable of annihilating their bowling arsenal, especially Yasir after the Lords debacle. Moreover, to my thrill, it was a complete Joe Root show. Being a Rootette, it completely enthralled me to see Joe make 254; he needed a big knock after Lords and a mammoth comeback like that shows why he is one of the world’s best test batsmen. His innings was absolutely fantastic, I’m pretty much out of words for it; he had a quiet summer and people were quick to jump on the bandwagon of criticising his form and place in the side.
The way he handled it and worked even harder to prove himself is one of the most amazing things about Joe - he realized where he had gone wrong, he is a legend of a man and loves his cricket, you could see the relief on his face after that hundred – I couldn’t be prouder. Not only did he smash it with the bat, he took 4 catches and a wicket in his second ball which without doubt made him MOM – an unforgettable Test match for him. Cooky, who also made 105 and Joe, batted with composure, professionalism and wonderfully countered Yasir Shah, sharing a partnership of 185 runs which paved the path for the bowlers to bowl them out. England took control from Pakistan and didn’t lose the rein for even 1 session. Chris Woakes continued to shine, taking 18 wickets in 2 matches and with Jimmy and Stokesy back the England bowling attack looked lethal, dismissing Pakistan for an embarrassing 195. However, Cooky didn’t enforce follow on which was viewed with much scrutiny and had other plans of batting further and wearing down their seamers, giving Pakistan an insurmountable total of 589. Pakistan made no effort, weren’t showing the fortitude to save the Test and so were cheaply dismissed for 234 with England winning the Test by a huge margin of 365 runs.
It’s been an entertaining series and with Stokes getting injured, both the sides are bound to have changes with Steve Finn looking the imminent replacement for the all-rounder. England shouldn’t be complacent and the middle order has much pride to salvage. With the Edgbaston pitch being favourable for spinners, we’re looking forward to a very exciting test! GO ENGLAND!