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SAM MORSHEAD: After the ordeal of the winter and the embarrassment of Lord’s, this was a clinical, effective, efficient, well coordinated victory. A timely confidence booster for rising stars and returning favourites
England beat Pakistan at Headingley
Headingley (third day of five): Pakistan 174 & 134, England 363 - England won by an innings & 55 runs
The long barren run is over.
At the end of an eight-game streak stretching back nine months, England finished a Test match the winning side.
After the ordeal of the winter and the embarrassment of Lord’s, this was a clinical, effective, efficient, well coordinated victory. A timely confidence booster for rising stars and returning favourites. A reminder of what it takes to emerge on top after four or five days. Or, in this case, three.
It was not a complete performance, far from it, but after everything that has come before it was certainly most welcome.
Pakistan, who crumbled to 134 all out in their second innings to lose by an innings, bowled well but fielded poorly and batted worse. It’s hard to know, on this display, whether their exceptional performance in the first Test was an anomaly or exaggerated by England’s total implosion.
Jimmy Anderson celebrates a wicket
Then again, Pakistani cricket is not known to favour consistency.
At Headingley, their bowlers can lay the blame on the top order, who never adjusted to a seaming pitch and a swinging ball.
Between them, the Pakistan top six made 174 runs for 12 times out in the match. When you lose your head, the body stands no chance of surviving.
Coincidentally, 174 was also the tourists’ first-innings total here, despite opting to bat after winning the toss. Undone by England using fuller lengths to greater success, they were chasing the game by the first evening.
By the time Jos Buttler was done with an IPL-inspired cameo on the third morning, lifting England to 363 all out and a lead of 189, Pakistan had taken the role of Wile E Coyote in a hopelessly lopsided game of catch-up.
In the end, they used the TNT on themselves, blowing up their own second innings within 46 overs.
And so we have a drawn series - an unsatisfactory climax to two engaging Test matches, perhaps, but for England a hugely important result.
On Sunday, after Sam Curran fell early on his 20th birthday, caught well by Asad Shafiq at second slip off Mohammad Abbas, Buttler activated one-day mode.
None of the Pakistani seamers were safe, as England’s new No.6 treated each with total disdain, combining a series of punched cover drives with almighty swipes to leg.
Dom Bess took a sensational catch to dismiss Haris Sohail
He brought up his half-century - a second in two Test innings - with a top-edged hook which cleared the fine leg rope before bulldozing a straight six off Faheem Ashraf into the Headingley building site.
It really was wrecking ball cricket. Somewhere, national selector Ed Smith would have been sitting with a satisfied smile, perhaps even smug. It’s taken less than two weeks for Buttler to have gone from maverick pick to obvious choice.
Here, he would almost inevitably gone on to reach three figures if he hadn’t run out of partners.
Stuart Broad swatted a pull to the tumbling Abbas at fine leg and got a glare from his batting partner as a result, while Jimmy Anderson nicked off to first slip.
Buttler was left unbeaten on 80, having taken 35 from the last 11 balls he faced in the innings. England, as a result, lead by 189 as they freshened up for their second stint in the field.
It was always going to be a tough task for Pakistan, searching to establish even the slightest of leads under plenty of cloud and with Anderson and Broad revved up for the occasion. It was made even harder by a peculiar knock from Azhar Ali.
Pakistan’s cultured opener came out like a pinch-hitter at the top of a limited overs innings. He drove his first ball to the cover boundary off Anderson and persisted in opening his arms, looking to score at a rate of knots. It was an unconventional approach, and it did not pay off.
Sam Curran claimed a second-innings wicket
One attempt drive too many left Azhar with his middle stump uprooted and Anderson yelling in delight. England had the breakthrough and the tone was set.
Haris Sohail also perished in needlessly slapdash manner, driving in the air when on eight, though England needed an astonishing one-handed grab from Dom Bess, moving to his left at wide mid-off, while Asad Shafiq was strangled down the legside by Broad - thanks to an intelligent use of DRS by Joe Root.
After a brief interlude following lunch, during which Imam-ul-Haq and Salahuddin threatened to make England work for their victory, Pakistan’s wicket parade continued.
Imam was trapped lbw by Bess - the Somerset offspinner’s first victim in Test cricket deceived by a delivery which missed the footholes and went on with the arm - and was unable to save himself with a review.
His captain, Sarfraz, did not even bother to ask his partner whether or not he should refer his decision after being pinned by Chris Woakes, while Shadab Khan lasted seven balls before nicking Curran to Alastair Cook at first slip.
When Ashraf took a wild heave at Bess and only managed a top edge to Dawid Malan at backward point, Pakistan were 111 for seven, still 78 behind and with absolutely nowhere to go.
Salahuddin seemed to get lost in his own innings and slapped Bess down Root’s throat at mid-on and the bat-slinging Hasan Ali was dismissed by a fine catch by Cook, leaping to his left in the slips - another area where England were 1,000 per cent better than at Lord’s.
Broad wrapped up the win, drawing Abbas into prodding to Root. He hung on. England are up and running again, at last.