After a break of 6 years, Pakistan returned to England to play a Test match series, starting at the home of cricket, Lord’s. Their last visit at the same ground ended in embarrassment, with 3 players being sent to prison for spot fixing.
However after a process of rebuilding and rehabilitation, Captain Misbah ul Haq has led the Test team to a very respectable number 3 in the world.
This tour was crucial for not only the cricket but also to portray the country of Pakistan in a better light. The players and management have been on a charm offensive, to play well but also make friends.
Pakistan have a very impressive record against England on their ‘home’ turf of the UAE, however we were expecting a difficult challenge in the UK.
A mature and reformed Mohammad Amir made his return to Test cricket. At the age of 17 years he made the mistake of getting involved in spot fixing, confessed his guilt and served his time in remand. In addition he was banned from playing cricket for 5 years.
Before the Lord’s Test England’s star pacer and wicket taker Jimmy Anderson was declared unfit. This was a huge loss for the home side, as he would have tested Pakistan’s vulnerable batsmen.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat on a pleasant green wicket and the sun finally decided to shine brightly. Captain Misbah, as reliable as ever contributed 114, to get his name on the honour’s board. His century celebration was a military salute followed by push ups, a tribute to the pre- tour Army training boot camp at Kakul. Asad Shafiq ably assisted with 73 runs. The team held there nerve to a respected total of 339. Woakes was impressive with 6/70.
Of note was the warm applause that Mohammad Amir received from the Lord’s crowd when he came in to bat. It was a kind gesture by the English crowd, as the media had stoked up some hostility towards him before the match.
England in reply made a total of 272, with only Captain Cook making a useful 81. Had the Pakistan team held their catches he would have been out cheaply. What was a pleasant surprise for the 1st innings was that leg spinner Yasir Shah made an impact early on, taking 6/72. England have a definite weakness against high quality spinners.
In the 2nd inning Pakistan struggled to reach 215, with only Asad Shafiq (49 runs) and Sarfraz Ahmed (45 runs) making an impact. Again Woakes stood out with 5/32. But none the less a lead of 282 was substantial on the cracking, worn wicket.
On the 4th day England were batting again, but Rahat Ali made early in roads. As time went on Yasir Shah did the rest taking 4/69. His wicket of left hander Ballance will go down in cricket legend, the ball pitched outside off stump and turned very sharply to hit the stumps behind his legs!
This ball was reminiscent of the one bowled by a young newcomer Shane Warne, cleaning up Mike Gatting’s stumps in the 1993 Ashes series.
Infact the legendary Shane Warne said during this current Test that Yasir Shah has ‘the best leg break I have ever seen’. This is a massive compliment from the master.
England eventually were out for 207, Pakistan won the match comfortably by 75 runs.
Previous Test match victories for Pakistan at Lord’s against England were in 1982, 1992 and 1996.
This Pakistan team look very fit and ready for the contest. Certainly I wasn’t expecting that they would beat England at Lord’s within 4 days!
There still are some concerns for Pakistan, an effective opening pair is required. I look towards the young Sami Aslam to be given a chance soon for opener. Too many simple catches were put down, need to improve.
Yasir Shah was honoured with Man of the Match for his 10/141 in his first Test match out of Asia.
Captain Misbah was as calm as ever during his post match interview, he dedicated the team’s win to the late Abdul Sattar Edhi.
This four match Test series has just got very interesting, should be quite exciting and competitive. One fact is for sure England will come back hard in the next Test.