Pakistan’s defeat in the third Test against England was a missed opportunity for them. I think their approach on the fourth day was pretty pathetic. It seemed to me that Pakistan were thinking that they don’t want to lose instead of thinking of winning.
Pakistan started the second innings with a lead of 103 on Day 3. They didn’t bowl that well and England knocked off the deficit without any loss.
But Pakistan came back the next morning and had England 126 for 2, which effectively meant England were 23 for 2. When you have a team 23 for 2 and you don’t think you have the upper hand, something has got to be wrong. There’s something wrong with the thinking when you stop thinking about winning and start thinking of not losing. That is not inexperience. That is just illogical and negative thinking.
I can understand they may have had a meeting on the night of Day 3 and thought they bowled badly initially and needed to be a lot more disciplined and try and control matters on Day 4, but surely after taking those two early wickets, the thought processes had to change to now realising there was a chance of getting more wickets and putting England under pressure. That tactic allowed England to weather the storm since the batsmen could afford to leave so many deliveries wide of offstump and get themselves in. This may come as a surprise but it takes just as much energy to run up and bowl wide of offstump as it takes to run in and try and get wickets. And with a four-man bowling attack, Pakistan’s bowlers predictably wilted in the last session.
I heard one comment that that’s the modern way. All I can say is, if that’s the modern way, thank god I’ll soon be retiring from the commentary box.
Pakistan’s approach allowed England to score freely in that last session on the fourth day when Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali were batting. With the Pakistan bowlers tired, Bairstow and Moeen made them pay heavily. They are very good players; Moeen has opened the batting in the past and Bairstow is in excellent form so that was not surprising.
The pitch was flat too – it has been flat throughout. All the pitches this series have been of a similar nature and not pitches that bowlers would wake up and look forward to bowling on, although Old Trafford offered just a shade more than the rest.
It is hard enough to get batsmen out, and with the bowlers tiring, two very good players in the middle in pretty good conditions, it’s hard to stop them from scoring.
Saying that, I wouldn’t blame any of the bowlers for Pakistan allowing England to score so freely after tea on Day 4. Actually, I wouldn’t criticise any bowler too much in this series, considering the surfaces offered so far. I don’t think any bowler from either side has stood out this series, apart from Chris Woakes. Woakes is the only bowler who has been fantastic throughout. England’s bowlers have outbowled Pakistan’s so far but Woakes in particular has been outstanding. James Anderson has bowled well, but Woakes is the only man who, every time he has the ball in his hand, has looked threatening.
It is a good sign for England that bowlers other than Anderson and Stuart Broad are stepping up when needed. England need that to happen because Anderson can’t play forever. Woakes is bowling well and is a good allrounder. Steven Finn got wickets in the second innings and I hope he takes that confidence into the future, because he has the pace and height for a pacer. And of course, they’ve got Ben Stokes, who is out injured at the moment but is a good allrounder and a dynamic bowler as well.
People might say that England don’t have a quality spinner, but Moeen is good enough. There might be talk about looking beyond Moeen, but England’s team and the management have never thought that. If they play one spinner, it has to be Moeen. If they play two, then it’s Moeen and someone else.
When you have seamers of the quality and quantity that England have at the moment, Moeen doing what he does with the ball is good enough. He can chip in with the bat as well – he is a class batsman as he showed in the third Test and I don’t think England will look for other options.
It is a similar case with England’s batting – I don’t think their batting was entirely dependent on Joe Root and Alastair Cook. It just so happened that those were the two who were scoring the bulk of the runs initially but Bairstow has scored runs through the year – he scored runs against Sri Lanka too.
There are question marks over James Vince and Gary Ballance, but because England are winning matches, they can afford to keep them in the side. They can give them every opportunity to come good and Vince certainly looks like he should. There will be pressure on them if England lose matches but at the moment, that’s not the case.
On the other hand, Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan have been big letdowns. Younis just hasn’t looked like the Younis we know. He hasn’t looked assured at the crease, he’s jumping around, and hasn’t looked as comfortable and composed as he usually does. And, of course, Hafeez at the top of the order has to get runs. You need your opening batsmen to get you runs to set the foundation for a good score and especially when you’re up against a good strong bowling attack. The middle order needs a little bit of steam to be taken out of the attack before they get there.
I’m wondering how it took Sami Aslam, Pakistan’s new opening batsman, so long to get a game. He played Under-19 for Pakistan with success, obviously has loads of talent, so why wasn’t he in the XI? He’s calm, he’s cool and an ideal opener in that he knows his limitations and tries to play within them.
That is what you want from an opener in a Test match – you want an opener who can spend a long time in the crease, see off the new ball and allow the other batsmen to capitalise on the start. He’s one such batsman who can spend a long time in the middle.
Also read: The art of batting time, the Sami Aslam way
I was disappointed with the way Pakistan played this Test as I thought they threw away a chance of winning and leading the series 2-1, but wouldn’t say they have exceeded my expectations.
I said in my last article after the second Test that I had England as favourites to win the series but I expected a tightly-fought series as I know what Pakistan are capable of. They are behind with one to go but there is every chance of them believing in themselves and winning the last Test to square the series.
England were and continue to be favourites as they seem a well-rounded team that can still get better but it’s too early to say if they have a side for all conditions. They’re playing at home. The pitches have not been typical but home is home and they still have to perform outside home consistently, for example in the Asian countries, to say they have a side for all conditions.
We are seeing Australia struggle there at the moment against a team that England made to look pretty ordinary here in the United Kingdom and I am sure would totally overwhelm in Australia. That shows how difficult it can be away from home but England are certainly on the way to being a team capable of good form home and away.