England vs Pakistan: Three things we learned from Old Trafford Test
An ecstatic sixth-wicket stand of 139 between Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes was enough for England to cruise out of the misery as they registered an impressive three-wicket win over Pakistan in the first Test at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Pakistan had dominated the game right from the proceedings, but all the hard work was undone by two poor sessions. With England reeling down at 117/5 while chasing 277, the game looked well and truly in the visitor’s kitty. At this moment of time, England needed a stern partnership, which was duly delivered by the likes of Buttler and Woakes, and hitting at 4.21 an over, the pair turned the game on its head.
With England now leading the three-match Test series 1-0, we look back at three things we learned from the first Test.
Buttler good with the bat, but struggling with gloves
Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler admitted after the game that if he had taken his chances during Pakistan’s second innings, England would have wrapped the game quite early.
Buttler’s wicketkeeping skills have time and again been thrown under in the air, and the case was further strengthened when he dropped Shaan Masood before missing a glorious stumping opportunity in the first innings. The opener duly capitalized on given opportunity by scoring a career-best 156, which took Pakistan to 326.
The 29-year-old was clearly struggling on the field, but that was partly down to the fact that his father had been admitted to hospital on Friday, although he has since been discharged. However, regardless of the personal troubles, Buttler has scuffled on more occasions, having scored past thirty 34 times in 79 attempts. In a total of 80 innings in 45 Tests, he has a solitary century to his name.
Anderson’s wait continues
Ahead of the Old Trafford Test, pacer James Anderson was 11 wickets shy of becoming the first pacer to reach the 600-wicket mark in Test cricket. Four days and a win later, he remains 10 wickets away from reaching the landmark.
Anderson alongside Stuart Broad has enjoyed a great success against Pakistan’s top order in the past, and while Broad was at his brilliant best, Anderson struggled to pick wickets. It’s not that Anderson bowled poorly, it’s just that he was unable to find a breakthrough especially after lunch on days one and two.
The recently turned 38-year-old, in fact, bowled fewer overs than Dom Bess, leading to the suggestion that whether he should be rested for the second Test.
With 3/54 and 3/37, Broad was England’s best bowler in both innings, which was enough to overshadow a rare day-off from Anderson. Despite being 38, Anderson still looks at his peak, but time surely isn’t at his side. With the likes of Woakes, Broad, Jofra Archer, and Mark Wood making up an excellent pace attack, will Anderson’s absence really hurt England?
Is Azhar Ali the one to be blamed?
Pakistan had dominated a majority part of the game, yet slumped to defeat. Heading into the game, questions were raised about Azhar Ali’s captaincy. The onus was on him to take his side back to the winning ways for the first time since they visited England two years ago.
Pakistan losing the match can partly go down to the fact that the team hasn’t played cricket in months, while England were carrying out a momentum following their 2-1 series win over the West Indies. Pakistan were truly a class apart in the first innings with both the bat and ball, but the defeat will go down as one under Azhar Ali and his prowess of managing the bowlers. Former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram voiced his concern over the same, and while reacting to defeat, he said,
“Winning and losing is part of cricket, but I think our captain missed a trick quite a few times in this game, as far as his leadership is concerned,” Akram told Sky Sports.
“When Woakes came in, there were no bouncers, no short deliveries, they let him settle down and runs were coming easy.
“Once the partnership got going, nothing happened - the turn didn’t happen, swing didn’t happen - and Buttler and Woakes just took the game away.”
“We’ve got a 17-year-old (Naseem), who bowls 90mph, a 20-year-old (Shaheen Afridi), who is around 88mph, and they should be bowling a lot more overs - 18-20 overs each innings, no matter the situation.”
There were indeed a few questionable decisions made during the game. When England were still 21 runs away, Azhar brought Shadab Khan in action knowing that the batsman on the crease, Stuart Broad, had struggled against pace and not the spin.
But at the end of the day, it’s easy to blame Azhar Ali and the decisions he made, but the fact remains that nothing can be taken away from the partnership of Buttler and Woakes.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Dan Mullan