An enthralling contest between hosts England and Pakistan came to a gripping conclusion at the fag end of day 4, with the hosts sneaking home with 3 wickets to spare, mainly thanks to counter-attacking half centuries from Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler, the former hitting the winning runs courtesy an outside edge that flew past Pakistan’s slip cordon.
Yasir Shah added a few valuable runs to the overnight Pakistan total with some audacious slogs, including an over-boundary off Broad over mid-wicket. His counter-attacking blaze lasted for two balls after that, after he edged the same bowler to Buttler. Last man Naseem Shah, too, clubbed a couple of boundaries, before having his stumps rearranged by Jofra Archer, trying to hit him into the Stretford End at the Old Trafford Football Stadium nearby.
The contest was evenly set for both teams, as England’s Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley walked out to commence a 4th innings chase of 277. They were troubled by the wobbling seam movement from Mohammad Abbas, despite taking their stance from outside the crease. Having beaten both the openers several times in the first ten overs, Abbas was finally rewarded when he got to jag back one in from round the wicket to Burns, and hit his back leg. Burns departed leg before after a skirmish with the Pakistan fielders.
Joe Root and Dominic Sibley then took England through to lunch, doing a decent job against both the pace and seam of Naseem Shah and Mohammad Abbas as well as the spin of Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan, capitalizing on the fair few looseners dished out by them.
A similar pattern continued after lunch, as the duo looked to settle in. That was until Yasir Shah, having kept Sibley considerably quiet since the break, got him to play an expansive cover drive and induce an edge to Asad Shafiq at slip, who once again took a sharp catch.
Having played the two right arm Pakistani quicks late ball after ball since his arrival to the crease, Joe Root looked well set to guide England home, when suddenly, he moved forward to defend a peach of a delivery from Naseem Shah that pitched and jumped onto the shoulder of his bat, and carried to the palms of Babar Azam at slip.
Ollie Pope came in and picked up from where he left off in the first innings, flicking his second ball to the square leg fence. England’s hopes were pinned on this pair, especially Stokes, who has made a name for himself for getting England past the line from improbable situations across formats.
Alas, there was to be no heroics this time from the all-rounder. A googly from Yasir Shah pitched on a length and took off, making Stokes helplessly fend at it. Rizwan, who has been commendable with the gloves in this Test match, did really well to get his gloves to it and then catch it on the rebound. Although umpire Kettleborough did not seem to pick up a sound, TV replays showed that it came off Stokes’ glove, and hence the decision had to be overturned.
Pakistan were well on top 3 overs later, after Shaheen Afridi got one more delivery to viciously pounce on Ollie Pope, pinging his left glove in the process. The ball ballooned up in the air and lobbed into the hands of Shadab Khan running in from gully.
Chris Woakes said after the end of yesterday’s play that they would approach whatever target is set for them in a positive manner rather than utilize the two remaining days to do so. True to his word, he started off with a flourish, as the ball crashed into the ropes more often from his and his partner Jos Buttler’s bat, as the duo took England to tea after forging a whirdwind run-a-ball partnership of 50, reducing the margin down to a 110 runs.
The duo maintained the same approach after tea, with Buttler bombarding the boundaries square of the wicket with extravagant sweeps and more often reverse sweeps, and Woakes dishing out an exhibition of attractive, conventional front foot drives off quicks and tweakers alike, as the Pakistan camp started to look more and more hapless after each time they had to pick the ball up from the boundary line.
The ploy of setting defensive fields was not working either for Pakistan, as both of them went on to reach their fifties in the space of two deliveries and the margin of runs was significantly dipping after every over. It took the duo 20 overs to raise a 100-run partnership, which was completed in the 66th over.
Desperate appeals and a series of reviews started to follow against the two batsmen, who were running away with the game with at least a boundary every two overs. Due to the field being spread open, singles were easily obtained by the two as well. The fact that the bowlers were overstepping once in a while were not helping their case either.
The only bowler who seemed to be a threat for England was Yasir Shah, who kept trying and trying to get that outside edge, or that one delivery to spin and bounce awkwardly, or one to sneak through bat and pad, but nothing seemed to work for him.
Buttler looked to be set to stay in the middle till the end and shush all the voices murmuring that he was not good enough for the longest format of the game, as he pulled Shadab Khan into the stands to reduce the target down to 26. But the next over, he was finally dismissed by Yasir Shah after yet again trying to opt for a reverse sweep to a very full length delivery, in the process being struck in front. A review from him confirmed that the ball just clipped the top of off stump.
Stuart Broad was sent in next to take on both the operating leg spinners and ensure England get past the target in a jiffy. He fell with 4 runs remaining, trapped leg before to Yasir Shah, who had his 8th wicket of the match. Dom Bess survived the remaining over, before an educated edge from Woakes off first ball of the next over from Shaheen Afridi saw the 4 required runs being completed, and England finally had a victory in the first Test of a Test match series.
Pakistan 1st Innings 326 all out (109.3 Overs)
Masood 156, Babar 69, Broad 3/54
England 1st Innings 219 all out (70.3 Overs)
Pope 62, Buttler 38, Yasir 4/66
Pakistan 2nd Innings 169 all out (46.4 Overs)
Yasir 33, Shafiq 29, Broad 3/37
England 2nd Innings (target 277) 277/7 (82.1 Overs)
Woakes 84*, Buttler 75, Yasir 4/99