Funny What One Test Can Do…
So in the space of four days Test cricket has been saved, Pakistan have earned the the respect they deserve and the traditional hand ringing over England’s team selection will now continue in earnest.
Not bad for a few days work…
The build up to the First Test between England and Pakistan had been largely dominated by the return of Mohammad Amir.
It was justifiable in many ways. A dashing young talent returning to the scene of his downfall.
Amir had been allowed in to the UK ‘ahead of schedule’ after committing one of the most heinous crimes possibly in this gentlemanly game. Alastair Cook predicted a rough ride for the 24-year-old. The biggest cricket story of the past ten years was back in the headlines. Much of the narrative had already been written before a ball had even been bowled.
But there was little backlash against Amir. Aside from a few half hearted boos as he came out to bat during Pakistan’s first innings, he was mostly welcomed with the same polite applause any change of batsman brings.
Bowling on the second day there were nerves, as one might have expected, but he soon found his rhythm and that was that. The lead story heading in to the Test soon became an after thought.
Misbah’s finely crafted hundred had already changed the conversation, his celebration quickly entering cricket’s pop culture lexicon, while Chris Woakes did his bit to dispel any further thought he might not be an international bowler.
Sport loves its story lines, and this Test proved to be full of them.
Yasir Shah followed Woakes six-for with one of his own, taking 6-72 to limit England to 272 in their first innings, earning a place on the Lords’ honours board and – along with Pakistan’s impressive group of left arm seamers – putting to bed the idea they might not be able to perform away from home.
Again the conversation changed. This is a legitimately talented Pakistan team, not just a side that can only do the business in its own back yard but one that can excel on the world stage.
And ultimately that is the lesson here: these are two good sides.
There were wickets given away too cheaply – Misbah in Pakistan’s second innings, Moeen in England’s and Joe Root, twice, chief among them – but there was some excellent displays with both bat and ball.
Two players claimed ten wickets in the match and while only Misbah and Asad Shafiq passed 50, there were ‘starts’ for others in each innings. Both sides will have hope moving forward to Old Trafford, England will welcome back James Andreson and Ben Stokes while Pakistan’s seamers will relish the idea of the ball swinging as the action moves North.
England will be disappointed not to have chased down 283 with the best part of two days in which to do it, but as a contest the First Test proved to be an entertaining affair – one which will doubtless spawn many ‘who says Test cricket is in trouble?’ columns.
It also seems to have further put to bed the somewhat chequered history series between England and Pakistan have sometimes endured. These are simply two good teams, with their own strengths and weaknesses, seeking to win a Test series.
Sometimes the simple things are the best. And, simply put, we have the makings of a great Test series on our hands – lets take some simple joy in that.