The breezy summer, the ball seaming and swinging, the rain being forever around the corner, the media tracking every movement, the distinguished duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. They all make touring England the real test of technique, adaptability and temperament.
It was one of the toughest tours for a young and inexperienced Pakistani team. Apart from Mohammad Amir, Sarfraz Ahmed, Azhar Ali, and Asad Shafiq there were all inexperienced players. Though the English team was muddled after a horrific 4-0 Ashes loss to the Aussies and a series loss in New Zealand, it still had vastly proficient side with Alastair Cook, Joe Root, James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes.
Pakistan had a successful 2016 test series against England but it was in the second part of the English summer. This time they were touring in the first part of the summer when batting is a difficult task and England in Test matches in May is a side unmatched.
They got practice while playing against Ireland in Malahide. Debutant Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan emerged as the positives when they both notched up fifties and a hundred run partnership at a time when Pakistan were in trouble. And debutant Imam ul Haq scored a fifty during the chase of 160. He showed great temperament after Pakistan were 14-3. Mohammad Abbas took nine wickets in the match and emerged as the leading fast bowler in the side.
The first Test was at the iconic Lord’s, the home of cricket where England won the toss and batted first. The Pakistani bowlers were all guns blazing and pitched the ball up. They came out with an attacking approach and their fielding was world class.
Abbas and Hassan Ali took four wickets each and England were bowled out for 184 only. Pakistan batted responsibly, scoring 363. Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq scored fifties and Babar Azam got his form back by scoring 68. Shadab again showed his talent and scored a 50 while Faheem scored 37.
England failed against the varied attack.
Abbas attacked the stumps, Faheem kept the pressure, Hassan Ali bowled bouncy deliveries, while Amir bowled great spells with swing and together they produced sheer magic.
The whole nation was ecstatic, the impossible had occurred, the Pakistani team did what no one else thought was possible. A young team beat England at Lord’s and in May. It was a complete team performance with all players performing to the best of their abilities. England’s dry run continued and their media bashed them.
Pakistan had a rare chance to win a Test series in England. They could have jumped to the 5th spot in the ICC Test Rankings. But it turned out to be an illusion as Pakistan batted badly.
After winning the toss Sarfraz batted first and Pakistani batsman had no clue to a good line and length bowled by England bowlers.
It was a tantalising end to the series after such an astonishing performance given by the young Pakistani team in such grim and cloudy conditions.
Mohammad Abbas emerged out as a great swing bowler and a match winner. Mohammad Amir bowled like a leader. Shadab scored three fifties in three Test matches.
Though Sarfraz’s wicket-keeping improved but he was below par in batting. Shadab has to improve his bowling to make it up to the Test level.
Fawad Alam must be brought in the team as his presence can bring stability. But Pakistani team simply managed to punch above their weight as nobody expected them to level the series.