What a befitting gift to their fellow citizens by the Pakistan Cricket Team!! What a perfect tribute to the great Hanif Mohammad!! At seventeen minutes past four o’clock this afternoon Azhar Ali launched Moeen Ali into the stands for six to take Pakistan’s second innings total from 36/0 to 42/0 and seal an emphatic and comprehensive victory by 10 wickets at the Oval south of the River Thames and level the series 2-2. Pakistan won the first Test also in London north of the river at Lord’s by 75 runs.
The Oval has always been a good hunting ground for Pakistan ever since 1954 when also in the fourth and final Test England were “Fazalled” (Fazal Mahmood took 12 wickets in that match) and defeated. The series was drawn 1-1. Pakistan win -loss record here is 5 victories and 3 defeats. Of the last seven Tests here Pakistan they have won 4, drawn 2 and lost 1(through forfeiture in 2006).
It is indeed time for the Pakistani fans and supporters to celebrate. Although the organisers keep saying that all tickets except few hundred have been sold why is it that so many seats were vacant. The crowd was fairly large and there was a sizeable section of Pakistan supporters many wearing green and carrying the crescent and green national flags. Throughout there was constant chanting of “Pakistan Jeetay Ga” (Pakistan will win; and “Jeevay Jeevay Pakistan” and “Pakistan Zindabad.”
The weather on all four days remained gorgeous and perfect for cricket. The pitch even up to the fourth afternoon remain true with good bounce and carry. In the England second innings Yasir Shah got some advantage by bowling in the “rough” made by the fast bowlers.
Pakistan required early breakthroughs. Misbah led the proceedings intelligently changing his bowlers and not allowing the batsmen to settle down. With Yasir being given one end to confuse and mesmerize the batsmen with spin and guile. The pace trio were rotated from the other. Amir, Wahab and Sohail were all pumped up and at fiercest and fastest. England depended on long and productive partnerships from their lower middle order and tail enders. Ballance never looked comfortable or confident and after having added 52 for the 5th with Bairstow who did bulk of the scoring he edged a real snorter from Sohail Khan which lifted and moved away Sarfraz gleefully gobbled it up moving swiftly towards his left. Pakistan had the wicket they wanted after 45 minutes.
Both Bairstow and Moeen looked in good touch particularly the former who was batting with ease and confidence. The partnership was beginning to look troublesome until Yasir pushed one slightly quicker, Moeen cramped for space edged it for Sarfraz to take a brilliant reflex catch at the second attempt. Moeen walked away without even glancing at the umpire’s raised finger.
This 65 run partnership was really the last bastion and Pakistan having broken through minutes before lunch now saw victory just round the corner. They must have had a hearty lunch.
The 66th over proved the deciding one. Wahab was breathing fire although he had been no balled a few times and also been issued warnings for treading on to the danger zone in his follow through. The fifth delivery was played by Bairstow on the on side. He called Woakes for the run and then sent him back. Wahab quick as lightning had pounced on the ball and while still on the ground threw down the stumps at the bowler’s end; Woakes gave himself out and trundled away.
Next delivery Bairstow drove fiercely into the covers. The ball skimmed inches from the ground and Azhar Ali took a dazzling diving catch Bairstow gone for 81; England 209/8 – still behind.
Broad, and Finn did wag a bit and avoided an innings defeat. At 221 Broad went to reverse sweep Yasir and Younus took the lobbed edge in the gulley. In the 74th over Wahab was not only no balled but also removed from the attack as he ran on to the danger area. Third warning and you are out of the attack.
Finn and Anderson put on 32 runs for the final wicket. The ten and jack were proving a pain in the neck. Misbah brought on Iftikhar to bowl his off spinners. On his eighth deliver he had Anderson LBW. Oxenford answering the appeal in the affirmative to give Iftikhar his first wicket in Test cricket. England bowled out for 253 which meant that Pakistan required 40 to win which they got through Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam. Cook did not use Broad or Anderson. It was Woakes and Finn and when the latter went off with hamstring problems Moeen handled that end and from the other even Root was given an opportunity.
Pakistan had outplayed England in all departments of the game. Pakistan’s fielding the second England innings showed a lot of improvement. No dropped catches. Apart from a few lapses in the outfield they were sure and energetic. Sarfraz kep brilliantly throughout.
Misbah led the side with dignity and intelligence. Cook must have thought a little while at all those statements about gaining top place in ICC rankings after the Edgbaston Test. Currently race is between India and Pakistan. Pakistan are I thing 1 with India 2. This could change if India beat the West Indies 3-0 and Australia lose to Sri Lanka. Meanwhile savour the sharing of the Investec Trophy after this great win at the Oval on the 70th Independence Day of Pakistan.
Younus was deservedly declared the Player of the Match; and Woakes and Misbah the Players of the series for their respective sides.
During his interview Younus let us all into a secret at his coming back into form in this Test after so many successive failures in the first three tests. He said that it was a telephone call from Azharuddin in India that did the trick. Azhar told Younis not to stand outside his crease when taking his stance but play from inside the crease. Reminds me of Azhar being helped out by Zaheer Abbas to correct his grip. This was in Sialkot and Azhar was having a bad patch. He asked Zaheer to help him after which runs once again started flowing from his bat.
P.S. Can any of our readers throw light on the suggestion that using saliva on the ball or licking fingers or even rubbing the ball across the trousers should be banned. It looks messy and seems unhygienic. If you notice in other ball game be it golf, tennis, field hockey, football, rugby, bowls, croquet, netball, baseball, handball, squash are players allowed to “mess around” with the ball. This is a serious question being asked by many.