It has taken them eight attempts and 267 days, but England have finally done it – after a barren winter and a shock start to the summer, they have won a Test match.
In the end, it only took them seven sessions at Headingley to wrap up the victory by an innings and 55 runs against a rather lacklustre Pakistan, tying a series that ultimately was of the quality you might expect from teams ranked fifth and seventh in the ICC rankings.
England were much improved from their horror show at Lord’s last week—in truth, it would probably have been difficult for them to be anything else—while the air of collective calm and precision that appeared seemingly from nowhere for Pakistan in that Test, disappeared just as quickly at Headingley.
In the end, Stuart Broad was the man to finish things off, Mohammad Abbas only able to steer the ball to Joe Root at third slip, the game wrapped up before tea had been taken
However, the quick-growing seeds of victory were really planted before tea on this game’s first day, as a triumvirate of England seamers made light work of Pakistan’s batting card – the tourists escaping a little from total humiliation at 79/7 but still only finishing 174 all out.
While with the ball England were fairly polished, there is still clearly work to do with the bat. Despite eight of their batsmen scoring 20 or more, only one, Jos Buttler, went on to post a half century and while there was a sense that this was a pitch that a batsman could never consider himself truly in on, it was still a disappointing return.
As can be deduced from the scoreline, Pakistan’s batting in this game provided little to write home about either, in fact, with no centurions on either side, it was not a vintage series for batsmen of any nationality. Buttler was ultimately the only player to average over 40.
One man who will probably look back on this Test with fondness though is the 20-year-old Dominic Bess, who made key contributions with the bat, ball and in the field to state his credentials as the ‘three-dimensional’ cricketer that England hope he can be.
Originally coming in as the nightwatchman, Bess showed more confidence and resolve at number four than many who have been legitimately tried in England’s middle order, and came within a run of scoring back-to-back half centuries.
With the ball, he had to wait for Pakistan’s second innings to be given an opportunity, but the session after he had taken a stunning one-handed diving catch to remove Haris Sohail, he finally got his chance, eventually finishing with 3/33 as he helped ensure the game would not make it into a fourth day.
Pakistan batted, on what would prove to be the game’s final day, as if they had a 189-run lead rather than the reverse. Aside from some brief resistance after lunch from Imam-ul-Haq and debutant Usman Salahuddin, they did not look like a team who had much interest in battling to remedy their perilous position in the game.
Often in drawn two-match series, there is a regret that no deciding game will be played. But, there was little of that sense here as a repeat of this result seemed to be the most likely outcome in a hypothetical third Test.
England, rather belatedly, appeared to have remembered how to play in their home conditions and Pakistan seemed to have reverted to the sort of performance that was expected of them. However, the win at Lord’s did offer a tantalising glimpse of what Pakistan might be capable of if only they could find some consistency.
After a brief 11-day foray, England must wait until August to play more Test match cricket, hoping that by then they won’t have forgotten how to play it.