Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Azhar Ali praises “brilliant” Woakes and Buttler as England beat Pakistan by three wickets

Posted on 8 August 2020 by Tusdiq Din

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali praised ‘brilliant” Chris Woakes and Joss Buttler as they guided England to a dramatic first Test win at Emirates Old Trafford. Needing 277 to win in their second innings, Woakes and Butler took England to within sight of their target. Buttler was out lbw to Yasir Shah in an inspirational knock of 75, with England still needing  a further 21 runs at that stage. Stuart Broad was then out lbw to Yasir to add more drama, but Woakes’ heroics ensured England got home, as he finished on an unbeaten 84.

For Pakistan it was a disappointing end for what in the most part looked as they would achieve their first win of the tour.

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Chris Woakes of England celebrates victory on Day Four of the 1st Test Match between England and Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford

Having scored 326 in their first innings, the highlight of which was Shan Masood’s 156 and Babar Azam’s score of 69, Pakistan reduced England to 219 – they were 12-3 at one stage, with Yasir inflicting the bulk of the damage with figures of 4-66. Had Shadab caught Broad on the boundary he would have had another five wicket haul. Pakistan commenced day four with a 107 lead, Yasir plundered a rapid 33 before England wrapped up Pakistan’s second innings for a paltry 169, thus setting England 244 to win.

England were on fire in the field, with Dom Sibley’s brilliant run out of Asad Shafiq in Pakistan’s second innings personifying Joe Root’s side’s intent. Ben Stokes wasn’t due to bowl due to an injury but his 2-11 off four overs in the second innings gave England further impetus.

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Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan celebrates the wicket of Ben Stokes of England during Day Two of the 1st Test Match between England and Pakistan 

Twenty year old pace bowler Shaheen Afridi and 17 year old Naseem Shah are very quick, but they received little help from an unusually dying pitch. Naseem did snare Root, caught by Babar Azam for 42, with Afridi taking care of Oli Pope for 7, with a rapidly rising ball that clipped his glove before Shadab held the catch. Having England at 117-5, Pakistan needed one more second innings wicket to expose England’s tail.

But the game then dramatically swung the way of the hosts.

Woakes and Buttler took England close to victory with a stand of 139 for the sixth wicket, before a late wobble, as England prevailed by 3 wickets. Yasir’s second four wicket haul of the match was unable to turn the game in Pakistan’s favour and his captain Azhar Ali lamented his side’s performance, but paid tribute to England’s winning partnership which managed to reach the second highest run chase at Old Trafford.

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England captain Joe Root shakes hands with Pakistan captain Azhar Ali during the toss prior to Day One of the first Test Match between England and Pakistan 

“Credit to Joss Buttler and Chris Woakes, they just took the game on and straight away after the fifth wicket was gone. They started to play shots, and it was one of the best partnerships I have seen in recent matches. We were in control of the game, we were one away from finishing the game off but then they just came and dominated us in that period. They were brilliant.

“We had gotten five out and we were sure that had we got another wicket, we thought we can with the match easily. But unfortunately, they came out an attacked us and took the game away from us. In hindsight yes, we regret that we had an opportunity, a partnership developed in the second innings but [for us] no partnership could deliver more than 50 runs and we were unable to get to 300,” said Azhar.

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Yasir Shah of Pakistan celebrates with Shadab Khan and Mohammad Rizwan after taking the wicket of Dom Sibley 

After a three month cricketing gap, Pakistan arrived in England at the end of June in preparation for their tour in a bio-secure environment. England by contrast have already beaten West Indies 2-1 in their preceding series, but the Green shirts had more than matched their hosts. Azhar was adamant that their team selection with two spinners was correct, but admitted they will need to adjust.

“It was the right selection. Until yesterday it was going nicely. Obviously we’ve lost the Test match but Shadab’s contribution in the first innings was very significant. We were in a tough situation at that time. His partnership with Shan saw us take off. You’ll see that we struggle with the fifth bowler, Haris Sohail is here, he could have given us eight to ten overs. We looked at the pitch and went for a spinning allrounder because Shadab’s batting has been very good. We were sure Shadab could take wickets, especially against the tail-enders, and he showed us that in the first innings. He was playing well yesterday but he got out [lbw to Stuart Broad].

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Shan Masood made 156 in Pakistan’s first innings against England 

“It’s disappointing of course because the Test match was in our hands, we were leading  but unfortunately we lost.”

Pakistan will have to quickly re-group for the their second Test match which begins on Friday at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl. The last two Test series between the nations have finished all square in 2016 and in 2018. Azhar will hope that will be the minimum his side can achieve.

“Our record in England in good, we have a fifty per cent win ratio, which no other team has. We always have good performances in England. We need to find a balance between batting and bowling to win in these other places. With four bowlers it’s very difficult. It’s difficult to bat in those conditions, we have to find right balance to win outside Asian conditions.”