I’m going to depart from my usual habit of writing about every day of the cricket and try to write about all 3 days I was lucky enough to go to at Old Trafford in one go.  If it’s turning into a novel I’ll reconsider.

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I booked Day 2 and 3 way back when the tickets first came put for this test, then handed my notice in which meant I’d be able to make Day 1 too, it seemed rude not to while I was all the way up in Manchester.

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I’d booked a Travelodge in Manchester, but having stayed there when I travelled up for the U20’s Rugby World Cup I discovered it was in an area that didn’t feel safe to me as I was traveling alone.  Travelodge very kindly changed my booking to a hotel in Warrington I was familiar with, which was a great relief.

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My journey North was a good one and I arrived in good time to get settled in; I’d picked Warrington as an area I know with a view to driving to the Eccles Park and Ride for the Metro to then find it wasn’t operating.  I booked a secure cart park in Sale for 3 days which is on the same line as Old Trafford, making for an easy journey.

I arrived at 10am on the morning of Day 1 which was a good job as there was some confusion on how to access my seat in Stand A due to building works.  It gave me time to have a cuppa and a muffin for my breakfast too which was a result.

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I was sat in the middle of the stand, next to a group of friends who’ve been going to Test matches together for years, they included me in their ‘spot’ bets for the day, which was enjoyable and I even won one!  The score by lunchtime was my guess.  They were very friendly and great company.

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Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat, that was to prove to be a very good decision and is also probably the reason I can do 3 days in one posting.

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Cook and Alex Hales opened the batting, Hales has been struggling to find his form in red ball cricket for England, he fell short  of a century by 6 runs at Lords against Sri Lanka, but it’s recognised that was against a fairly poor bowling line up.  Hales was to fail again at Old Trafford, facing only 20 balls before he was bowled by Amir for 10 runs.  England were on 25 for 1 – were we going to see a collapse again?

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The answer to that is an emphatic no as Cook and Joe Root in at 3 put on what was pretty much a batting masterclass.  The weather was wonderful in Manchester and although I’m certain the Pakistan team are used to the heat, they weren’t used to a long and hard day in the field after their win at Lords.

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And hard work it certainly was, as both Cook and Root dealt with the conquering Yasir Shah all day with little difficulty.  The delight when Cook reached his century was plain to see as he leapt in the air; I think the Lords loss and the way Pakistan celebrated hurt this England team.

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Cook had batted for 4 hours when a bad from Amir which kept very low, sneaked past his bat to hit the stumps, he was out for 105 and England had moved on to 210 for 2.

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In came James Vince another man in need of an innings, he was also another man who failed on the day, he faced 30 balls before edging a ball to Sarfraz from the bowling of Rahat Ali, he’d made a disappointing 18.  This however is a new England, they give their players plenty of time to make their mark, we have to hope both Hales and Vince do so at Edgbaston.

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Joe Root was motoring along, looking in excellent form, he made his century in the 67th over having been joined by Gary Ballance.  Again he was delighted, it was a wonderful knock and one that was going to have a lot more mileage.

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Ballance didn’t make his mark on the match making only 23 before being bowled by Rahat Ali.  England were on 311 for 4 and Chris Woakes came in at 6 as the Night Watchman.  To say he did a good job would be a total understatement!  The day needed with England on 314 for 4.  It was good to see the majority of the Pakistan team shake Joe Root’s hand as he left the pitch.

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I arrived a little late on Day 2, to find myself sitting at the end of a row, a seat that meant I spent the first hour of the match watching people walk up and down disturbing my view of the cricket.  Several people around me were as unhappy with the situation and a couple of men and I went to see what could be done for us – I wanted to watch cricket not people get more and more drunk.  That was fully appreciated by Andy Smith of Lancashire CCC, he moved all 3 of us into the seats in front of the pavilion, that turned what had been in effect a restricted view into an almost perfect view.  It also meant that there were literally no interruptions to the cricket all day, which was simply wonderful.

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Joe Root carried on in the way he’d left things on Day 1, scoring runs at will no matter who he was facing, yet also playing the very dangerous Yasir with the patience needed to keep his wicket intact.

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Chris Woakes who has shown himself to be a capable batsman kept Root company as the pair put on 103 runs, Woakes making 58 and looking likely to make his century before he was caught and bowled by Yasir Shah.  He’d made an invaluable contribution to the England total.

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I’m now going to sound like a spoilsport – while Joe Root was making a grand total of 254 runs virtually a whole stand was completely ignoring the cricket as they were watching a ‘beer snake’ instead.  That to me is a great shame, I’m thrilled to be abel to say I was there, and watching every run made by Joe Root.  Again Root’s joy at making the landmarks of first 200 then 250 was plain to see.

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Ben Stokes made a cameo appearance, making a quick 34 runs before being caught behind by Sarfraz from the bowling of Wahab Riaz.  What had worked incredibly hard and as much as I hate to say it as an England fan fully deserved to get wickets against his name.

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The Pakistan bowlers must have been dreading the next batsman in, part of the Ginger Power duo, Jonny Bairstow and this time he was in power mode.  I’m not too sure how Joe Root will have felt at being expected to take quick runs by Bairstow, a man who always seems to be coiled and ready to scamper between the wickets, but quick runs they did take.

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The pair put on 106 runs before a Wahab ball caught Joe Root out, he was caught by Hafeez.  As delighted as Wahab was to make the wicket he again shook Joe Root’s hand as he headed away.  It was wonderful to see and a real highlight of the day.

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England were on 577 for 7 and Bairstow was flying, he became Wahab’s 3rd victim when he was caught by the captain Misbah ul-Haq – he’d made 58 and England were on 589 for 8 – a total captain Cook was happy with, he declared, looking to put pressure on Pakistan at the end of the day.

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And wow did England pile the pressure on! On the wicket that England had scored 589 runs on Pakistan found themselves on 57 for 4 at the close of play.  Mohammad Hafeez was the first to go after he was caught by Joe Root from the bowling of that man Chris Woakes. Azhar Ali was then caught and bowled Woakes.  Younus Kahn in jumpy form again was caught by Bairstow with Stokes getting in on the wicket taking act.  Before Woakes took his 3rd wicket of the day Rahat Ali was caught by Gary Ballance.  A disastrous start to chasing a huge total.

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The day had been another glorious one, it was a day for sun cream and hats.  It will never cease to amaze me that so many people sit in the sun for 7 hours without either and go home red as a beetroot in the evening.  Both are vital if you watch cricket.

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Day 3 wasn’t quite a good weather wise, but again I was lucky enough to be sitting in front of the pavilion and able to make use of the facilities when the rain did appear.
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England needed 16 wickets to win the match, Shan Masood was the first to go, he seems incapable of coping with Jimmy Anderson and was caught by Root having made 39.  At 71 for 5 things were looking bad for Pakistan.  Asad Shafique,  one of their best batsmen didn’t last long, he was caught;  by Alex Hales when he tried to sky a ball,  from the bowling of Stuart Broad.

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Captain Misbah ul-Haq made another great contribution seeing another 2 of his team mates come and go, Sarfraz Ahmed was caught by, man of the moment Joe Root from the bowling of Ben Stokes having made 26.

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Yasir Shah didn’t last long, he was caught, by Joe Root of course, with Woakes sending the ball down this time.

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Enter Wahab Riaz with Pakistan on 119 for 8, he and Misbah frustrated the England team with a stand of 60 runs, with both making shots well worth the applause of the crowd.  Misbah was again tempted by Moeen Ali, I’d just pointe out that Alastair Cook was out of his normal slot in the slips when he took the catch from Moeen to dismiss his opposing captain.  He’d scored 52.

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Wahab carried on the good work with Mohammad Amir at the other end, but he fell to temptation, hitting a ball from Moeen Ali down towards the boundary, where Alex Hales was waiting to take the catch.  Pakistan were all out for 198 a huge 391 runs behind.  Everyone was expecting Cook to force the follow on, but he very quickly signalled that England would bat again!

That caused an awful lot of debate with a fair level of nastiness from keyboard warriors, with 2 full days to go I believe Cook and the England team were keen to rub Pakistan’s faces in the differences in the performances of the 2 teams.

And that difference was stark in England’s second innings, although Alex Hales again failed, he was caught behind by Sarfraz from the bowling of Amir, but both Cook and Joe Root carried on where they’d left off in the first innings.  It was touch and go with the weather but I decided to stay, any opportunity to watch these two bat is worth taking in my opinion.

England finished the day on 98 for 1 with Cook on 49 and Root on 23.  I was very tempted to go again for Day 4, but with an Essex game to go to on the Tuesday and sleep lost through a fight outside my door at 4am on the Sunday morning I headed home.

I was home in time to shout at the TV after England declared on 173 for no wicket; they again made short work of the Pakistan batsmen bowling them all out for a slightly more respectable 234.  A win by 330 runs and a point made before the teams move on to Edgbaston for the third test.

 

 

 

 

 

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