It has been 255 days since Pakistan last played a Test match, but for their fans, it seems it was certainly worth the wait. After four days of thrilling cricket, in a contest that see-sawed between the teams, they have taken a 1-0 lead in this four match series.
It is hard to remember a match with a buildup more overshadowed by events of the past – Pakistan have not played on these shores since the acrimonious tour of 2010 and Mohammad Amir has not played a single Test since then – his career nearly over before it had really begun.
Despite all of this, the two sides have managed to produce a Test more than worthy of all the anticipation, the balance of power traded back and forth between the sides so many times, it was almost difficult to keep track.
It leaves the series intriguingly poised, the tourists well set to put a puncture in one of England’s tyres just as their attempted journey to be number one in the Test rankings seemed to be gathering a bit of momentum.
It was fitting that Mohammad Amir, returning to the ground where he made the biggest mistake of his life, was the man to wrap up proceedings, cleaning up Jake Ball and perhaps writing the start of this new, exciting second chapter of his career.
However despite all the build up, and indeed perhaps because of it, this was not a Test which will forever be remembered for the performance of Amir. Nevertheless his three wickets in the match represent an important first step back and possibly an ominous sign for England, that he has room to improve for the remainder of the series.
Pakistan’s real star was of course Yasir Shah, the Lionel Messi doppelgänger spinning them to an ecstatic win in front of a full house at Lord’s and finishing his first Test outside Asia with match figures of 10/141 – a perfect riposte to those who said he could only bully sides with the conditions in his favour.
For England, this was a healthy dunking back into the deep end of competitive Test match cricket after the fairly uncompetitive series with Sri Lanka earlier in the summer, and they will go to Manchester later in the week with a few questions to answer.
First of these remains their middle order, with James Vince looking no more a Test player than he did in earlier attempts for England – if all the selectors want to see is a batsman playing elegant looking shots then perhaps one of the paintings from the Long Room at Lord’s might have served just as well.
After playing what was, given the context, one of the worst shots to get dismissed by an England batsman in recent memory, Moeen Ali has somewhat unnecessarily thrown himself into the spotlight of the armchair selectors across the country but with a match-winning hundred coming only two Tests ago, and no better spinning option available in county cricket, his place is surely secure for now.
It was not however all doom and gloom for England – the continued excellence and improvement shown by Chris Woakes is an enormous plus for them, particularly as they start having to consider a life after James Anderson some time in the future.
For now though, they do not and the home side will undoubtedly be hugely boosted by his return for the second Test, the leader of their attack back just when he is needed most.
And with Ben Stokes, who has become something of a talisman for this young side, also surely slotting back into the side at Old Trafford, England will be an altogether different prospect for Pakistan to handle.
In short, this has been a thrilling beginning to what promises to be an enthralling series. Pakistan’s press up celebration in front of the member’s pavilion at Lord’s will be remembered – although it remains to be seen whether they will still be cheering by the end of the summer.
First Published On : Jul 18, 2016 12:38 IST