Congratulations to England for a well planned well fought thoroughly deserved win in the third Test at Edgbaston. They cannot now lose the series. Hard luck Pakistan but as on many other occasions their batting imploded on the vital day. A victory was not even remotely possible but on paper their batting power house was capable of seeing off 84 overs.
As expected the over cautious captain of England batted on today for four overs in which Moeen made merry clobbering Yasir Shah for 19 in one over including two towering sixes and one four. England added 41 in 4 overs this morning for the loss of Bairstow before Cook called them in at 445 for 6 leaving Pakistan a well nigh impossible target of 343.
Pakistan never seemed to be chasing it particularly after the early loss of Hafeez, Younis and Azhar. With 91 for 3 it was evident that all plans of going for the target had been shelved. It must be recalled that Pakistan had twice chased 300 plus for victory.
On both occasions against Sri Lanka- 302 in 57.3 overs at Sharjah in 2014 and 377 in 103.1 overs at Pallakele a year later. They required patience, plan, determination, technique and concentration which today their batsmen seemed to have left behind in the dressing room when going out to bat. The shot selection was poor, the timing sadly out of tune and the execution awry. The result was the eventual collapse, downfall and defeat.
The weather was sunny though windy, the crowd of about 10,500 was the smallest of all five days even though the tickets were reduced to GBP 16 for adults and GBP 6 for Under 16s. The pitch was placid and had no tricks or threats in it.
The third Test at Edgbaston between England and Pakistan was won and lost in the space of 22 balls within a few minutes before tea on the final afternoon. From a steady 124 for 3 Pakistan crashed to 125 for 7 with Misbah, Asad Shafiq , Sarfraz Ahmad and Sami Aslam skimmed away within the blinking of an eye to some fine swing bowling by Finn and Woakes and intelligent captaincy and imaginative field placement by Alastair Cook. Misbah was fourth out. He was caught behind of Steve Finn giving the 6 feet 8 inches tall paceman his first victim in this series.
Asad Shafiq followed almost immediately. He got another duck and thus bagged the dreaded pair (which Hafeez had barely avoided at the beginning of the innings, Sarfraz also went without scoring and then Steve Finn got the classical left handed opening batsman Sami Aslam who had defied England scoring 70 excellent runs to add to his 82 in the first innings. Finn bowled Aslam with an absolutely marvellous swinging delivery which the youngster was unable to negotiate, played all over it and was comprehensively castled. Pakistan were 125 for 7 and it was all over bar the shouting as they say.
England opted for the extra 15 minutes (4 overs before tea) which is the new regulation provided the umpires agree. Here with the Pakistan tail left it was possible that the match would be over in those 4 overs. But Yasir and Amir stuck it out and went for the much needed cuppa at a 148 for 7. There were 28 overs left in the Test match at this stage with England requiring three wickets and Pakistan a “mere” 195 runs away from victory. Amir and Yasir had added 23 for the 8th.
Yasir perished soon after tea in Anderson’s first over well taken by Hales. Yasir departed to lick his wounds. Amir and Sohail batted with some abandon thinking or at least pretending that they would take their team across the winning tape. Amir was undone by a swinging delivery from Broad to be caught by Woakes. Pakistan were 151 for nine with ten and jack together as the last pair. At 159 for 9 and on the last delivery of the 62nd over Rahat Ali was dropped by Vince off Broad. The match would have been over but was prolonged because of this lapse.
Vince hurt himself in attempting the catch. With Cook attacking through his pace quartet and deploying a close in field of three slips a gulley short leg and backward square leg edges and drives times and mistimed found the boundary. Sohail and Rahat thrived adding 50 for the final wicket and taking Pakistan past 200 when Cook tossed the ball to his lone spinner the local lad Moeen Ali. Sohail in his pugnacious mood slapped one ferociously back to him and Moeen took a low return catch , tossed the ball in the air in glee and England had won by a comprehensive margin of 141 runs with 13.1 overs still to be bowled. They also took a 2-1 unassailable lead in the four test series. After some debate I am sure Moeen was deservedly declared Player of the Match for his two half centuries (63 in the first innings and 86 not out in the second and his 2 wickets in the match).
Both Pakistan and England have a lot of thinking to do particularly the former as the final test at the Oval is only four days away. For England if Stokes makes a comeback who will he replace? My choice would be Stokes for Vince (who probably will not be 100% fit for the final Test). The rest seem to have earned a place in the final line up of the final test.
However if the pitch is going to help spinners Adil Rashid may be considered in place of Finn who did take two wickets today after 77 barren overs in his three previous innings. For Pakistan; oooh this is a tricky one and we should leave it to the Selection gurus. It was good to meet Inzamam at Edgbaston but I am not sure whether he will have a say in the selection for the Oval Test. He is here to finalize the squad for the ODIs.
Warwickshire Cricket Club should be very pleased with the way this Test filled their coffers. It lasted full five days. The total attendance on all five days was 81832 against the Clubs budgeted estimate of 60000.
For those interested in trivia Sami Aslam today became the youngest Pakistan opener to score two half centuries in the same Test and overall the 5th youngest to do so. The young man has made an impressive beginning. It is hoped he will continue to work hard and prosper. Also today the famous veteran cricket writer John Woodcock who has visited Pakistan on several occasions celebrated the 90th anniversary of his birth. Congratulations John.
For the advocates of Tests being of four days duration Edgbaston will not provide a good example but Galle will where the Sri Lankan spinners Herath and Perera rolled over the Australians within three days yesterday to win the test and wrap up the series.