I’m writing this long after the end of the match when much has already been written so I’m not going to write up each of the 3 days I attended separately I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.
Having enjoyed my 3 days at Old Trafford so much I added Day 3 to my Edgbaston trip, by the end of those 3 days I wished I’d added a further 2!
I’m still getting to know the major Test venues so had booked myself a seat in the shade for the first 2 days, a schoolgirl error that one, I do love a bit of sun! I had great company for the first day, a group of cricket enthusiast friends who included me in their conversation; not so much on Day 2, I had a back turned to me all day with no conversation at all, that confirmed for me that a day at the cricket can be greatly enhanced by the company you get to keep.
And so to the cricket – Misbah won the toss for Pakistan and bravely in some people’s opinion, put England in to bat. The more I watch of test cricket the more I understand that it isn’t the first innings that’s key but the fourth, not many teams appreciate a big chase, not many manage a decent runs chase either.
Pakistan had made 2 key changes to their team with Sohail Khan replacing the hard working Wahab Riaz and 20 year old Sami Aslam replacing Shan Masood – a man who must have been happy not to be facing his nemesis Jimmy Anderson in spite of his disappointment at having been dropped. Both replacements were to be masterstrokes for their team.
Several of England’s specialist batsmen had question marks hanging over their heads and one such, Alex Hales became Sohail’s first victim of the day. Whilst Hales is a complete delight to watch when facing a white ball he seems to lack the footwork and indeed patience needed when considering a red ball and a 5 day test match. He wafted at a ball which sailed to Sarfraz Ahmed behind the wickets, he’d managed a grand total of 17. And Sohail had taken only his 2nd ever test wicket.
Joe Root in I can score from very ball mode lasted only 6 balls before befalling a similar fate, the catch was taken by Mohammad Hafeez who’d dropped a few in the series, the bowler was again Sohail, wow his figures were improving and he’d taken the wicket of one of the best batsmen in the world!
England seem to be highly reliant on both Root and their captain Alastair Cook, however Cook wasn’t to be the knight in shining armour this time. He was traded LBW by Rahat Ali for 45 and his team were on 75 for 3. Misbah’s decision was looking like a good one!
Two men under pressure were at the crease with their side in trouble, Gary Ballance and James Vince – I’ll show my colours here as a fan of Ballance, in spite of the fact he still has that worrying knack of stepping back into his crease – he doesn’t seem to have sorted that out! The 2 batted well together with Ballance taking the lead and put on 69 before Vince was caught by Younis Khan from the bowling of that man Sohail. The switch to a right arm bowler was getting results!
Ballance was joined by Bairstow, a dynamic batsman who has learnt the patience needed for this format of the game lasted only 16 balls this time however and Sohail had his 4th wicket and Sarfraz had another catch! England were 158 for 5!
Enter Moeen Ali – is he a spinner or is he a batsman? He takes wickets at key points in games and in my experience of watching England also scores runs at key times. England needed the latter at Edgbaston and he certainly obliged; Moeen is a wonderful batsman to watch when he gets going and he had runs in his mind. After making what was in all honesty a shocking shot at Lords to get out he again found his batting ability he and Ballance added a valuable 66 on a day when runs were sparse. Yasir Shah who’d excelled at Lords but suffered at Old Trafford with figures of 266 for 1 got into the wicket taking act as Ballance nudged a ball through to Sarfraz – he’d scored a decent 70.
Chris Woakes who has come of age in this series with both bat and ball wasn’t to score runs on his home ground, he was caught by Sarfraz, his 4th of the day, from the bowling of Rahat Ali for 9. With Stuart Broad in next it was key that Moeen kept the strike, especially with the new ball looming. Broad who could have been counted on to be a solid batsman has suffered a huge loss of confidence since he was hit in the face by a bouncer from Varun Aaron, that left him looking like a panda for the summer of 2014. The tactic of Moeen facing seemed to be paying dividends until that new ball was taken when he took a quick single to put Broad in the firing line, With Mohammad Amir bowling he was out the very next ball caught by Azhar Ali for 13. Mooen followed 2 overs later as did England’s hopes of building a decent score – a 5th catch for Sarfraz a 2nd wicket for Amir – who’d seen several catches dropped from his bowling. Mooen had the second highest score of the day with 63 and England were on 278 for 9.
The end of the innings wouldn’t be far away – Steven Finn and Jimmy Anderson are not renown for their batting prowess, although Finn managed 3 impressive fours and remained not out on 15 before his partner Anderson became Shoal’s 5th wicket after being trapped LBW. What a return to test cricket for the tall Pakistan bowler after 5 years, 5 for 96! It was a joy to watch his celebratory press ups, with a clap in between each one! Pakistan had skittled England for 297.
Pakistan must have been very pleased with their days’ work could they capitalise with the bat and get a decent lead? Hafeez, an accomplished batsman who’d been having a nightmare series opened the batting with debutant Sami Aslam. Hafeez’s horror continued as he was caught by Ballance from the bowling of Anderson he’d faced 4 balls and had a duck! A dream start for England it was to be some of the only joy the home team would be able to show all day.
Azhar Ali joined the 20 year old and the pair set about frustrating the England bowling attack, they bowled far too many balls these 2 batsmen could simply life their bats to, and life it they did! I was in my no conversation mode so whilst I had to admire the skill and nous of the batsmen it was frustrating viewing all day, especially listening to Geoffrey Boycott on TMS who can moan for England but on this day made very valid points about line and length!
Both batsmen built big scores but there was heartbreak for Aslam as Azhar took a risky run, the young opener was run out after a great throw by Vince for 82 runs, this was a man who deserved to score his century! Having been on 1 for 0 Pakistan were now on 181 for 2. I learnt a valuable lesson on my use of language on my Facebook page which has a big Sub-continent following, I posted that it ‘was a shame’ for Aslam – that was misinterpreted as me saying shame on him! Nothing could have been further from my mind, but after much discussion and a change of words on my part I’ll never use that saying again!
The jumpy Younis Khan joined Azhar and he progressed to a deserved 139 before Chris Woakes got the breakthrough for England on the final ball of the day! It had been very hard to see where a wicket was going to come from! He was caught to the delight of the England fans in the crowd having been dropped on 38 and 69 – costly drops! Pakistan finished the day on 257 for 3. Day 1 and Day 2 belonged to the visiting team!
Day 3 brought me a wonderful seat in the sun, it also brought me wonderful company in the form of Dennis Whight who was at the match as an early 90th birthday treat. I would have been happy chatting to him all day as he told me tales of his time serving in India in the RAF, a man who really is deserving of a biography of what has been a fascinating life! As well as a lovely family on the other side he made my day a special one!
We had a repeat of the great innings at Lords with Younis and Misbah batting, how far ahead could they get their team? Younis who hadn’t found his form in the series scored 31 before being caught behind by Jonny Bairstow adding to Woakes innings tally, Asad Shafiq faced only 18 uncomfortable balls before being bowled by Broad for 0 and Pakistan were 296 for 5. A better spell for the England bowlers.
Sarfraz was next in and next to make a stand too, he and his captain put on 62 runs to build their lead before Misbah was bowled by Anderson. Sarfraz kept the company of his tail enders who were out for a grand total of 19 between them after Yasir was run out by Woakes who then trapped Amir LBW for 1 with Stuart Broad sending Sohail Khan back to the dressing room after he befell a similar fate on 7. Broad polished off the Pakistan innings as Rahat Ali was caught by Joe Root. Pakistan finished their innings on a mighty 400 – would it be enough of a lead?
To the disappointment of Pakistan that lead had disappeared by the end of play as Cook and Hales came in and played a perfect inning, they looked set and made 120 between them before time was up giving England a small lead of 17 both looked to be on their way to centuries; Cook finished the day on 64 and Hales on a much needed 50.
I reluctantly headed home, with an unusual family commitment the next day I couldn’t justify another day in Birmingham as much as I wanted to stay, I was also at the ‘opening’ game at the London Stadium between West Ham and Juventus on the Sunday. So, TV and the radio it had to be for me.
As I’m only writing from a scorecard and others accounts here and I’v written a novel already this will be brief. Both openers were despatched early on Day 4 but virtually all of those following made a decent score, with Joe Root on 62 before he was caught by Hafeez from the bowling of Yasir, James Vince moved to 42 – still unable to convert to a 50 before he was caught by Younis from the bowling of Amir. Ballance managed 28 before being caught by Shafiq from the bowling of Yasir (he was back!). England were on 282 for 5 at this point.
Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali who’ve built an understanding of each other during this season put on 152 with Bairstow on 83 before he was out LBW to Sohail. Mooen batted on with Chris Woakes and was working to his century before Cook declared on 445 for 6 giving England a lead of 342 and most of Day 5 to bowl Pakistan out and win the game.
I was very much watching from afar on Day 5 and willing England on to the victory. Aslam again shone with a top score of 70, Hafeez again failed scoring 2. Azhar Ali looked to be a tor in England’s side before being caught by Cook from the bowling of Moeen – another key wicket! Having struggled to take wickets in the first Pakistan innings England took all 10 on Day 5 in just under 71 overs; Pakistan were all out for 201 and England had won the 3rd Test.