“The game was lost when England won the toss and said we’re going to bat first”, were former England captain Nasser Hussain’s words after the hosts were outplayed across four days by a new-face Pakistan side.
Nasser’s words make sense and paint the picture perfectly and completely, since England were always chasing the rabbit after being bowled out for 184 in the first innings, but credit cannot be taken away from Pakistan in any way.
Rewind to day one and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s words were that he ‘wanted to bowl first’. It seemed like Sarfraz had deciphered the conditions — England’s home conditions — better than the hosts. First battle won.
Pakistan pacers’ fuller lengths on day one to invite England batsmen to come forward and play and not wait the new ball and seam out was one master stroke. The result, Pakistan wrapped up England for 184 courtesy Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali’s four-fors. Battle number two: won.
Pakistan then were asked the most difficult question by England, if they will be able to persevere against the swing of James Anderson, the pace of Mark Wood or against Stuart Board, who had both of them in his artillery.
The answer, some may say, was not flashy enough — none of the batsmen went on to score big or outsmart the England bowlers, but what panned out to be the perfect reply was a team effort. Fifties from four players and small but valuable contributions from others saw Pakistan slay their batting demons in England. Three out of three battles won.
As day three resumed and Pakistan’s last wicket fell, England’s last chance of survival at Lord’s was presented to them. Bat it out and then bowl Pakistan out, with two and half days at their disposal.
However, after Abbas, England’s prime tormentor in the opening encounter with eight wickets and a player of the match award, caught Alastair Cook LBW dead in front of the wickets, Joe Root’s side were sitting ducks.
Abbas was joined by Mohammad Amir this time around as the latter bagged his own four-for in the second innings, boasting his experience and class.
A 64-run target then didn’t confuse Pakistan as they went out and played their shots to put a cherry on a complete performance — a war well won.
It has become quite evident that Pakistan have started to write a new script in their cricketing history. Their infallible trust in youngsters is paying dividends with Champions Trophy triumph being one of the best examples. Pakistan have finally put the past behind and are looking towards the future — a bright one indeed.
The focus on basics, much-needed hardwork to increase mental and physical astuteness, a coach with a vision, the management finally entering the fray and actually managing players and their workloads were all the signs of better times to come — one that has arrived with the victory at Lord’s.
A comprehensive nine-wicket victory against ‘hosts’ with a day to spare says a lot about this new-face Pakistan side. They will be tested once again at Headingley, with England coming at them all guns blazing to square the series, and how they perform there will unveil their real character of being only one-off giant slayers or the next, emerging giants themselves.