Yet again I’ve been gallivanting watching a lot of cricket so am coming to this very late, as a Surrey and England member I had tickets for 5 days of this final test and was hoping for 5 days of great cricket!
I was in the pavilion every day and that proved to be a mixed experience, Day 1 saw me on the balcony – a great view but my goodness, intimate! I was so close to my neighbour our seats were literally stuck together, luckily I had pleasant company for the day which made it bearable.
Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat, with a slightly green wicket that seemed an odd choice, and so it was to prove to be. This series had been highly competitive and this Final Test was to prove to be no exception.
This match started with some controversy – Alex Hales hit a ball from Amir to Yasir Shah – the initial response was great stop! Until Yasir leapt in the air in delight at the catch he’d taken. The umpire gave a ‘soft’ signal then went to the screen to confirm – the replays available were very unclear, it couldn’t be confirmed that the ball had bounced. After what felt like an again Hales was on his way back to the pavilion with 6 to his name. That was to have repercussions after the fact, Hales rushed into the 3rd umpires office where he was basically out of order, he was fined 15% of his match fee as a result. Stuart Broad tweeted a photo of the ‘catch’ and was fined 20% of his fee – not a good day at the office for the England lads!
That day at the office didn’t improve for the top as the Pakistan bowlers worked their way through them Sohail Khan bowled Cook seeing England on 69 for 2. Wahab Riaz back in the team at the cost of Rahat Ali he polished off the next 3 batsmen for a total of 35 runs between them. Joe Root seemed to be in ‘I can hit every ball for runs’ mode that resulted in 26 runs before he was caught behind by Sarfraz, James Vince faced 3 balls before he fell to the same fate, he’d added 1. Gary Ballance who’d shown some patience in the series gave Wahan his 3rd wicket caught by Azhar Ali for 8. England were on a disastrous 110 for 5!
Enter the England heroes for the day Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali. The pair have become used to batting together and both can be a joy to watch, they gave the England fans at the ground something to smile about. They have an understanding between the wickets which added to their individual batting skills makes for good viewing. Bairstow made 55 runs from 93 balls before he edged a ball to Safraz from the bowling of Amir. The pair had added 93 runs for the 6th wicket.
Mooed was in determined mood and pressed on, batting with his new partner Chris Woakes who was a total revelation during this series. Woakes added a very useful 45 before he too was caught by Sarfraz from the bowling of Sohail. Stuart Broad lasted for 3 balls before being caught LBW by Sohail for a duck. Mooen was heading for his century but running out of batting partners.
Steven Finn was next up and the pair did well to rotate the batting to give Moeen his best chance of that 100, he was clean bowled by Sohail for 8 leaving Jimmy Anderson a the crease. Mooed reached his landmark to the delight of most of the people in the ground before he was deemed LBW on 108 giving Sohail his second 5fer of the series. He finished on 5 for 68, England on 328 All Out.
Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali came in to bat, the pair had frustrated England at Edgbaston but Aslam wouldn’t get the opportunity in this innings, he was out LBW to Jimmy Anderson for 3 – a nightmare start for Pakistan they were 3 for 1 at the close of play, with Yasir Shah sent in as Night Watchman.
That familiar feeling of frustration returned for the England bowlers on Day 2 as Yasir did a great job belying his slot as Night Watchman. Steven Finn who’d struggled to take wickets in the series made the breakthrough as Joe Root caught Yasir on 26, he’d faced 48 balls and Pakistan had moved on to 52 for 2.
Asad Shafiq was next in, a small man he played an innings which may well be largely forgotten, it certainly didn’t make the headlines for reasons that will become plain. Azhar Ali was out for 49 caught by Bairstow from the bowling of Moeen, this brought Younis Khan to the crease. He’d had a strange series, Ive never seen a batsman leap about as much as Younis! He helped coin the phrase, via Phil Tufnell of the ‘Flamingo’ Leave, lifting his bat in the air at the same time as one leg.
The pair put on 150 runs, with Shafiq reaching 109 before Stuart Broad took a great catch from the bowling of Steven Finn. Pakistan were on 277 for 4. Misbah was next in and fairly promptly next out he added 15 before he was caught by Hales from the bowling of Chris Woakes.
An amazing fact came onto the big screens as Younis scored the 1000’th Four of his international career, his innings literally personified the saying ‘Form is temporary, Class is Permanent’ he saw 3 more wickets fall and we’d moved into Day 3, while working in style to a mighty 218, it was a delight to experience and the second double century of the series. It was also Young’s 6th double, seeing him score a double against 6 countries, India 267, Sri Lanka 313, Bangladesh 200, Zimbabwe 200 and Australia 213. Some record!
Sarfraz Ahmed had scored 44 runs before being caught by Bairstow from the bowling of Woakes and Mohammad Amir batting with his Warsop bat made in East Hanningfield, Essex made 39 and finished the innings not out. Jimmy Anderson put an end to Younis’s magnificent innings trapping him LBW. Virtually the whole ground rose to give Younis the plaudits he deserved. Pakistan finished their innings on 542 a lead of 214.
I’m not going to linger on Englands’ second innings I seem to have written a novel already! Jonny Bairstow top scored with 81, his contribution to a total of 253 which did necessitate a second innings for Pakistan. I imagine it’s politically incorrect for me to admit I was thrilled when Sami Aslam and Azhar Ali made the 42 needed for Pakistan to win this match. A 2 – 2 draw was a fair reflection of a fantastic series, I was so pleased to see the Pakistan players celebrate their win.
The series draw and a washed out final test between West Indies and India a few days later would see Pakistan reach the heady heights of the top slot as a Test team – it couldn’t happen to a team with a better attitude, I count myself as very lucky to have been to every test match of this great series!