An afternoon of outstanding reverse-swing bowling conjured England a memorable come-from-behind 141-run victory at Edgbaston. Pakistan crumbled to 201 all out, at one stage losing 4 for 1 in a 23-ball spell between Steven Finn and Chris Woakes before tea, having been sitting reasonably comfortably at lunch with a draw well within their compass.
However, having been set 343 in 84 overs, Pakistan subsided over the final two sessions. Moeen Ali picked the locked when he removed Azhar Ali then the quick bowlers bulldozed through the door. Sami Aslam played his second classy innings of the match, but when he shouldered arms at Finn shortly before tea saving the game was always likely to be too much for Pakistan’s lower order
James Anderson and Stuart Broad each struck quickly after tea, but England were frustrated by a 50-run stand for the final wicket in 11 overs, a partnership which showed the pitch contained no demons. Saving the game remained a long way off for Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali, and England had four overs with the second new ball up their sleeve, but there was just a bit if twitchiness emerging when Sohail slammed a return catch back to Moeen who, having twice contributed crucial innings, played a crucial role in the victory.
It will be a tough defeat to take for Pakistan who were dominant over the first two days of the game before losing their way over the two second innings. Conversely, England’s resilience to fight back makes this one of their finest wins in recent times – they are excellent frontrunners in a game, but questions have sometimes been asked about their ability to claw back.
Anderson’s six-over post lunch burst was where the game really changed after Moeen had been rewarded for his best spell of the series by drawing Azhar into loose drive which found Cook at second slip. Anderson has had a grumpy match – removed from the attack in the first innings for running on the pitch – but this was him at his best: getting the old ball to talk with immaculate control of line and length. It was not massive swing, but enough to create uncertainty which forced Younis Khan to poke outside off, Jonny Bairstow taking a good catch in front of first slip. Younis looked no closer to regaining his form.
The most electrifying period of play, though, was when Finn and Woakes burst through the middle order – two bowlers who have had contrasting summers. Finn’s wicketless run had reached 412 balls when he brought an edge from Misbah, a wicket that brought a primeval roar, a moment of raw emotion, from the pace bowler who has toiled without luck in recent outings.
More was to follow as another bowling change paid dividends – Cook had an excellent day in the field – with Woakes nipping a delivery into Asad Shafiq’s pads to trap him lbw for a pair and give another first-over wicket. Then he found Sarfraz Ahmed’s outside edge which was well held, low at second slip, by Joe Root amid a heady atmosphere. The ground was far from full, but those in cheered every moment. For a second Woakes had a third when Yasir Shah was given lbw but he had got an inside edge; the reprieve was temporary.
Aslam continued to fight having reached his fifty from 124 balls with a slog-sweep off Moeen over midwicket as he became just the fourth Pakistan opener to hit two fifties in a Test in England, a magnificent effort for a player with such little cricket leading into the match. Maybe it was the effect of having Misbah for company for a period, but he suddenly wanted to become more expansive against Moeen. However, the clatter of wickets – and pace from both ends – forced him back into his shell and his dismissal, ironically to the non-stroke he had played so well during the match, left a weak lower order with a task beyond them.
Aslam’s performance was in sharp contrast to that of his opening partner. England’s one success in the morning could hardly have come more gift-wrapped if Mohammad Hafeez had come out with a bow on his head. He managed to avoid the pair, but then helped a short delivery down to Woakes at long leg as he appeared to want to hit the ball in the air. There was only one fielder he could pick out – he did it with precision. Broad’s expression was as much surprise as delight. For a while, Pakistan responded well to the early setback. Then it all went badly array.