There are few things that get your adrenaline pumping higher than a written off Pakistan cricket side with the wind in its stride. This isn’t just true for Pakistanis.
The enormity of Pakistan’s win at Lord’s when no one – including this space – gave them a sniff against England in England, is more than just the underdog feel-good sensation that Pakistan cricket has historically made a habit of pulling off.
The Lord’s win could compare to Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win – in the same city – last summer, in how it has put the side back on the Test map. And now with England there for the taking, Pakistan should strike when the hammer is burning hot, and seal the deal.
It is never music to the ears when the captain of the side that isn’t being given a change already talks about potentially losing the match. “I told the boys, what’s the worst that could happen? We’ll lose. Just go out and express yourself,” was what captain Sarfraz Ahmed said during the press conference before the start of the Test.
Why would he even mention losing? Pakistan had barely scraped through against Ireland, and shouldn’t have any chance against England – why not just talk about the team’s strengths and what it can do?
Sarfraz, of course, knows his side better than all of us. Similar to the Champions Trophy win, by taking the burden completely off the team, he allowed them to do what they do best and overpowered a fragile England side.
Of course, the win – like most Pakistani triumphs – was set up by the bowlers. Here Muhammad Abbas, the Man of the Match, was the pick, and delivered the goods whenever he was needed, returning with an 8-wicket haul, four in each innings.
Mohammed Amir is the next in line, and his five wickets in the match were extremely crucial, especially their timings more often than not. Amir and Abbas in tandem are becoming a force and should be Pakistan’s pace vanguards in the longest format.
Hasan Ali’s 4-wicket haul in the first innings, and his contribution in the first innings England slump – from which the hosts never managed to recover – were critical as well.
While Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf could only take three wickets – all three of them significant though – it is evident what they are adding to the team. Replicating their showing against Ireland, the two produced another strong display of batting – with Shadab getting a fifty – to further underline how they are adding depth to both the bowling and batting of Pakistan.
Their bowling productivity would come around sooner rather than later, but it is their runs with the bat in trying conditions that should already be a source of reassurance for the team management.
As far as the batting is concerned, Babar Azam perhaps played the innings of his struggling Test career thus far, before unfortunately retiring hurt.
Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq both scoring fifties was also critical considering their role as the anchors of the side. And with Haris Sohail and Imam-ul-Haq also getting runs on the tour – even though the latter missed out in the first innings – Pakistan now has an in-form batting line-up, which is significantly more than what England can claim ahead of the second Test.
Should Sarfraz get back in the runs, Pakistan would be ticking all the boxes there are to be ticked, with a spectacular fielding display complementing excellence with the bat and ball. But what Pakistan’s skipper is clearly doing is masterfully leading a young side and easing it from the burden of its most successful Test era.