Pakistan vs England Second Test: Bazball Reigns Again

Pakistan vs England Second Test: Bazball Reigns Again

One team is lighting up Test cricket at the moment.

It’s not the side ranked No.1 in the World Test Championship table. Nor is it any of the top four sides in the race to make the 2023 final at Lord’s next year. It is, in fact, a team that has no hope of appearing in Test cricket’s biggest game next year—England.

And yet, after pulling off another outrageous display of Test cricket wizardry to win the second Pakistan vs England Test this week, it’s undeniable that England are the best team in Test cricket right now.

Here’s a look at how their latest victory panned out in Multan earlier this week.

Same England, Different Pitch

In many ways, the Pakistan vs England second Test unfolded in a similar manner to the first Test: England batted first, took a first innings lead, put on quick runs in their second stint, and set Pakistan a 300+ run target to win in the fourth innings.

Despite these perfunctory similarities, however, this was a very different Test. While the pitch in Rawalpindi was about as close to a runway as a cricket pitch can get—it recently received a second ‘below average’ rating in 2022—the pitch in Multan had plenty in it for the spinners. England found this out the hard way when Pakistani debutant Abrar Ahmed took seven wickets off his 22 overs to bowl England for 281 in the first innings.

Pakistan vs England Second Test

While many grumbled that this was the undoing of Bazball, England replied with an equally impressive bowling display. Jack Leach and Joe Root took six wickets between them to roll Pakistan for 202, and a 79-run lead at the halfway point.

Pakistan Threaten to Force Decider

In the second leg of this Test, England were the most measured we’ve seen them all summer. With plenty of time left in the Test, Harry Brook starred again, scoring a magnificent 108 off 149 to anchor the visitor’s innings and move them along at 4.24. However, for the second innings in a row, England were unable to crack 300 on this Multan pitch and were consigned to 275 all out with a lead of 354.

This left Pakistan walking out to bat needing their second highest ever fourth innings chase and the largest total of this match by some way. Mohammad Rizwan and Abdullah Shafique got them off to a fast start slashing 66/0 off 15.4 overs, before they each fell for 30 and 45 respectively. Babar Azam was picked up cheaply, which ushered Saud Shakeel to the crease.

Shakeel would combine with both Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Nawaz for significant partnerships. Just before lunch on the fourth, Pakistan needed only 64 runs to win with five wickets in hand, and it looked like a third Test decider was on the cards.

Bazball Prevails to Clinch the Series

It was only the genius of Mark Wood that prevented Pakistan from executing a series-equalising chase.

Taking three quick wickets either side of lunch by firing down high-140 km/h bouncers at the tired Pakistani batsmen, Wood was able to reduce Pakistan’s effort to tatters by removing Saud Shakeel and Mohammad Nawaz. Still, Pakistan threatened to pull off a heist, digging in with one wicket remaining and getting to within 26 runs of the English target before they succumbed to the English.

On the day, it was again Bazball that prevailed. England could easily have collapsed for below 200 in their first and second innings, but because of their positive intent they were able to snaffle plenty of runs before the spin of Abrar Ahmed won out. Their decisions in the field that led them to bowl Pakistan out in the fourth were also mighty impressive—Ben Stokes masterfully kept his fast bowlers fresh, and employed attacking fields even when the total required got down into double digits.

Ultimately, England walk away with their second win on Pakistani soil in as many weeks. A fortnight ago, England had only won two Tests in Pakistan. Now, thanks to Brendon McCullum, Ben Stokes and this new brand of Test cricket, that total has doubled.

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