Pakistan’s turnaround in The Oval Test wasn’t surprising at all. From the very beginning, I have been saying that England had the advantage because they have been playing good cricket and were playing at home. At the same time, I know this Pakistan team is fairly good. When they won the first Test match, I wasn’t surprised. As a matter of fact, they could have won, and should have won, the Edgbaston Test. I would have loved to have seen Misbah-ul-Haq a bit more aggressive in his outlook and try and push home the advantage when they basically had England 23 for 2 in the second innings. Pakistan batted poorly in the last innings but they should have had far less runs to chase to try and win that Test. At the end of the day, the outcome of a drawn Test series was a fair result. Two good Test-playing nations playing four Tests, not always playing very well, but playing a good series of competitive Test matches and producing some really good cricket, it was very interesting to watch.
People might have been a bit surprised at the complete turnaround after England won the third Test so convincingly and some may point to complacency, but I don’t think England were complacent, I don’t think that would have come into their game at all. They would have been desperate to finish off Pakistan and end up with the cups or trophies competed for against every Test nation. That would have been a big feather in their cap. I think the Pakistan captain and coaching staff have just done a good job in lifting the team every time they needed lifting, which was not always an easy task for this team.
Not too many England supporters would have been very disappointed that England didn’t win the series but those who are, should cast their minds back to the bad old days when England would arrive at the last Test at The Oval with the series already lost and winning that Test as a mere consolation prize. England have come a long way forward since those days and are certainly heading in the right direction.
I say the right direction because they aren’t quite there yet. The top order is too dependent on Alastair Cook and Joe Root. The bottom half of the order, from No. 6 down, has been producing a lot of runs which basically has been rescuing the batting. Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, when available, have made more than their fair share of runs and while it is desirable to have a long batting order, these guys should be topping up the runs, not providing such a huge chunk. Those mentioned are allrounders but at the moment they are looking to be better players than those selected purely as batsmen, and surely that cannot be desirable.
To be honest, when you’re winning Test matches, you can afford to give a long rope to players like Alex Hales, Gary Ballance and James Vince but eventually, they will have to produce. It’s good though to see that England have stopped chopping and changing teams on a whim or fancy, something they used to do in the not too distant past. Not long ago, if you didn’t do well in a game or two, you were out. That perhaps highlights the change in English cricket, where they are willing to give players enough chances to come good at the highest level. You have to show faith in the players you have picked. You can’t wait forever for them to come good, but you have to give them the opportunities first. And if England continue not to lose Test matches and not to lose Test series, they may still see it fit to persevere with what they’ve got.
Hales being one of those being given a fair number of opportunities did himself no favours with his behaviour this Test match. His behaviour both on and off the field was extremely childish. He needs to grow up, he needs to move on and understand what this game is all about and what his responsibilities are. These are different days with different standards being expected from international cricketers.
Hales being one of those being given a fair number of opportunities did himself no favours with his behaviour this Test match. His behaviour both on and off the field was extremely childish. He needs to grow up, he needs to move on and understand what this game is all about and what his responsibilities are. These are different days with different standards being expected from international cricketers. Fortunately or unfortunately, television cameras expose every move on the field of play and youngsters watching their heroes should not be made to believe that is acceptable behaviour. International cricketers more times than not get punished by the match referees for their indiscretions but youngsters will copy what they see and there aren’t the repercussions at the lower levels to discourage such behaviour. All international cricketers should realise they have a responsibility to the game they love and earn a living from.
That may have been a negative for the Test but a huge positive would have been Wahab Riaz’s performance. He was very quick and difficult to negotiate on a pitch that most batsmen would have no fears in batting on, which was good to see. It would seem being dropped for the Edgbaston Test shook him a bit. He is better than what he produced in the first two Tests and sometimes the shock treatment is good to cause a refocus. When he is at his best, his pace is intimidating. Being left out perhaps shook him up and it was good to see him come back strong.
Younis Khan’s performance was another pleasing one for Pakistan. He was exceptional in this Test, and that was great to see. He is a very experienced batsman who has performed well in the past, has an excellent Test record with accomplishments all around the world. It was good to see him play the role of the leader of the batting unit as the most senior batsman. It was a role he played well, and it was good to see him do that in this the last Test of the series, such an important Test. His double-century earned him the man of the match award, richly deserved.
As a neutral, it was enjoyable to watch such a keenly fought Test series. Not all the cricket was of the highest standard but watching the batting of Root, Bairstow and Moeen in the lower order for England, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and finally Younis for Pakistan, plus the bowling of Jimmy Anderson when there was a bit of swing, Woakes, the unlucky Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah and the rejuvenated Wahab, made it a very worthwhile summer.
It would have been better if there were five Tests instead of four Tests and five ODIs but as we know, these days schedules are focused more on revenue than what is ultimately best for the game. I am not holding my breath waiting on any imminent change.