Taha Hashim and Ben Gardner pick out the key stories from England’s thrilling three-wicket win over Pakistan in the first Test at Old Trafford.
Is this going to be the Summer of Woakes?
Chris Woakes entered this match with a batting average of five across his previous six Tests, hardly pretty considering he was taking on the No.7 role. To then play the chase to perfection, coming in after Shaheen Afridi had unleashed a demon ball to Ollie Pope, moving at a strike rate of 70, with a sumptuous straight drive off the left-armer’s first over with the second new ball to make it six to win, somehow holding on as Buttler and Broad went, hitting the winning runs – yeah, it was a special knock.
There was his incision with the ball, too: twice he accounted for Pakistan’s captain and there wasn’t much of a Babar show in the visitors’ second dig thanks to Woakes finding the outside edge. He only bowled five overs in that innings, and still, he was England’s man. Since the start of last winter, Woakes has 22 Test wickets at 18.95. He had his breakout series four years ago against Pakistan, and against the same opposition, he now seems to be at his peak. TH
Jos Buttler buys himself a lifeline
The obituaries were half-penned by the time Jos Buttler walked to the crease on the fourth day. His keeping was under the microscope after a succession of missed chances, especially in comparison to the impeccable Mohammad Rizwan, and his batting returns, while improving, weren’t enough to make up for the runs lost elsewhere. Until he played the innings of his Test career so far, an attacking, moment-seizing knock to remind you why you pick players like Buttler to begin with. If you don’t accept him when he’s dropping Shan Masood on his way to a daddy hundred, you don’t deserve him when he’s reverse-sweeping Yasir Shah out of the rough.
The caveat, of course, is that these innings do need to be more frequent, and the missed chances do hurt England. Buttler has bought himself time, but he hasn’t nailed his place. BG
Pakistan quicks live up to the hype
In the end, alongside the two leggies, Pakistan’s electric pace trio were unable to deliver victory as the visitors lost their way in the face of Buttler and Woakes. But make no bones about it; these guys are special, and that was made abundantly clear on day two when they sliced things open.
Take a few miles an hour off Shaheen and his left arm, height, wrist and swing will still take Test wickets at ease. Naseem could be daydreaming in class but he’d rather eyeball Test centurions, and the speed gun justifies it. And then there’s Abbas, who produced a ball you’ve all watched on repeat for days, knocking over the great Stokes.
Pakistan have plenty of options at their disposal if they want to give either one of the acclaimed three a rest going forward in the series, but this is the pace attack needed to deliver a stirring comeback at the Ageas Bowl. TH
Shan Masood upstages Babar’s coronation
Already an ODI don, and fast putting together the Test record to match, Babar Azam was well ensconced among the world’s elite. This Test was earmarked as his coronation into the Big Five, rather than the examination that decided if he deserved a place. He danced his way to 69 by the end of day one, with the doughty Shan Masood at the other end having to cop criticism over his strike rate.
But it was Babar who nicked off without adding the next day, and Masood who extended his overnight 46 to a match-defining – if not match-winning – 156, showing his range as the innings went on. The Pakistan batting line-up is more than just Babar, and there’s more than one way to build a Test innings. BG
England face Archer-Anderson dilemma
With Stokes having proved his fitness while changing the course of the game on the third evening, there should be no obstacle in England’s way to recall Zak Crawley for the second Test if the all-rounder has come away from his two-wicket spell unscathed. Broad and Woakes have both made themselves indispensable with bat and ball; the choice will come down to Jofra Archer or James Anderson, the two men you’d have pencilled in as first choice at the start of the summer.
The former is the golden boy, the future and the present, and bowled well in this Test. But questions remain over whether the captain knows what plan to set him on, and whether he trusts him to stick to that plan. Anderson is the GOAT, his place in the pantheon secure. His figures for the summer are poor, but CricViz suggest it’s down to luck rather than anything else. It might be a good problem to have, but it is still a problem. BG
Shadab Khan gives off Sam Curran vibes
Two leggies was the headline news from Pakistan’s selection, and while the tenacious Yasir finished with eight wickets and toiled for 30 overs in the final innings, Shadab Khan was very much second fiddle, his two wickets part of a final match summary of 11.3 overs. He failed to make an impact in the all-important fourth innings – which is when a leg-spinner shows his worth – and, really, this was a four-man attack with a sprinkle from the young all-rounder.
Still, with the bat he delivered a momentum-shifting 45 – five more runs would have given him a third Test half-century in England at the age of 21. He’s young, unpredictable, difficult to understand, but with some stardust that could still deliver Pakistan some glory in this series. Two leggies could still be the way to go. TH