There was a lot to expect from Pakistan’s bowling side when they traveled to England. Mohammad Abbas was in a fine form, Shaheen was threatening and Naseem was the talk of the series. Yasir was looking to make his name once again on English soil. As for batting, all eyes were on Babar Azam and his class with seniors Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq backing up.
It has been 24 years since Pakistan last won Test series against England in their back yard. In 1996, Wasim Akram led side won 2-0 in the three-match series. So the men in green were looking for their first series win on English soil since 1996.
For England, they haven’t beaten Pakistan in Test series since 2010. They played with them four bilateral Test series in which Pakistan won in UAE in 2012 and 2015 and draw in England in 2016 and 2018.
They were coming off a series win against West indies 2-1 with the bowlers in a very good form. Ben Stokes was in tremendous form before the series. Since the start of 2019, Stokes had a phenomenal career in Test, scoring 1453 runs at an average of 53.81 and taken 39 wickets at an average of 28.84. In the recent West Indies series, he was the leading run-scorer with 363 runs.
What did we get from this series? For the first two test matches, Pakistan had England in their hands. But there was some brain-faded captaincy by the skipper that let England win the first game and the rain had all the fun in the second match and the same goes for the third match. Though England would feel disappointed that they couldn’t bowl Pakistan out in the third match.
Overall, the series had its moments. Let’s look at some moments of this series.
The turning point of the series
There is no doubt that the turning point of the series would be the partnership between out-of-form Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes in the first Test match. Pakistan had them struggling at 117-5 as England was chasing 277 as they needed about 160 odds at that time. There was a brain-faded captaincy by Azhar, who did not attack new batsmen and let them loose.
Some may argue that the second innings of Pakistan’s first match was the cause of loss. That may also be a good point. Leading by 107 runs, Pakistan managed only 169 in their second innings. Had Pakistan taken their final lead to around 350, that may well be too much for England to chase it.
Failure of seniors
It’s not just that Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq failed, Joe Root didn’t quite play the senior role in the series. Though Azhar did end up scoring 141* in the final Test match, there are still some criticisms going on for the captain not just for his failures in the first two matches, but for his leadership in the series where he had been “extra defensive” and “overusing his bowlers”.
Before the third match, Azhar scored only 38 runs across three innings he played. Azhar eventually ended up as the highest run-scorer for Pakistan with 210. His 17th Test ton helped Pakistan avoid another defeat in the series.
Asad Shafiq did disappoint many. He managed only 67 runs in five innings with the top score of 29. The middle-order batsman did better than the captain in the last two years overall. However, he was highly criticized for his performance.
England’s captain Joe Root also came in the highlights as he scored 94 runs across the series. He averaged 31.33. This was his lowest series average against Pakistan and sixth-lowest overall.
One of the highlights of the series was James Anderson’s 600th Test wicket, the first pace bowler to achieve this milestone. Overall, he is the fourth bowler to take 600 Test wickets after Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Shane Warne (708) and Anil Kumble (619).
Among the players who have turned 30, Anderson has taken the most number of wickets with 332 out of 600. Only West Indies fast-bowler Courtney Walsh has better, with 341 wickets. Overall, both Anderson and Walsh have taken 17 five-wicket hauls, joint second behind Sir Richard Hadlee who has 25.
Anderson ended this series as the joint second most wicket-taker with 11 alongside Yasir Shah. When asked whether he would be targeting 700 Test wickets, Anderson’s replied; “Why not?”.
Rise of Rizwan
Mohammad Rizwan had an excellent series against England. He was the fourth-highest run-scorer for Pakistan with 161 runs with two half-centuries, the first Pakistan wicket-keeper to score two fifties in the same series. He was awarded the player of the series by England’s coach. He was praised by former players like Michael Atherton and Michael Holding for is tight keeping.
Nasser Hussain further said on Mohammad Rizwan; ‘Out of all the foreign wicket-keepers that have come to England, I think he’s been the best for a long long time – he was outstanding’.
It was no doubt the wicket-keeper made his name and rose to ranks. Rizwan has still a lot to offer.
You can read furthermore on Rizwan following this link: Rise and Rise, Rizwan!
Jos Buttler was England’s player of the series. He played a crucial role in England’s series victory, notably in the first Test match. He scored a vital 75 in the second innings that helped England chased down 277, which eventually won the series for England given the rain spoiled the next two Test matches in Southampton.
Before this series, Jos had only one fifty score that too against the West Indies last month. Since November 2019, and before this series, Jos averaged about 22 in 14 innings he played. He was criticized for his batting performances as well as his keeping.
Come this series, he ended up as the second-highest run-scorer with 265 runs averaging 88. He even scored his First Class best of 152 in the third and final Test. He was awarded the player of the series award.
Personally against Pakistan, Jos enjoys batting against them where he averages 51.
Zak for the future
Zak Crawley replaced Ben Stokes for the remainder of the series after the all-rounder pulled out of the tour due to family reasons. One thing was sure that the addition of Zak meant the batting line-up for England would be strengthened.
And it did.
Crawley batted only twice, one innings each in second Test and third Test. He scored 53 in the second Test and a magnificent career-best 267 in the third Test.
1st Test: England (219 and 277-7) beat Pakistan (326 and 169) by 3 wickets.
2nd Test: Match drawn. Pakistan (236), England (110-4 dec)
3rd Test: Match drawn. England (583-8 dec.), Pakistan (273 and 187-4 (f/o))
Series result: England (1-0) beat Pakistan in the three-match Test series.