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England vs Pakistan: Five Talking Points from the Test series

Misbah ul Haq and Alastair Cook
For a change, an England-Pakistan series went without any controversy

Billed as the event of this year’s English summer, the Pakistani players arrived on the back of a demanding boot camp and looked ready to battle. On the other hand, the home team wanted to complete their set of Test trophies and take revenge for the UAE debacles.

However, Misbah’s men defied pre-tour expectations and managed to hold the hosts to a riveting 2-2 draw. Pakistan took a liking to London’s twin venues while England retained their influence in Manchester and Birmingham.

Let us take a look at five of the most fascinating takeaways from the highly entertaining series.

#5 – Is Cook auditioning for a role in the limited-overs team?

Alastair Cook
Cook upped the ante by unveiling his alternate persona

67.68 – This was Alastair Cook’s strike-rate in the 4-match series which yielded him 423 runs. Until then, the left-hander had scored exactly 10,176 runs at a strike-rate of 46.42 in his Test career.

Usually content with setting the base and only punishing loose deliveries, Cook surprisingly decided to rattle the Pakistani new-ball bowlers by hastening his pace. The visitors were gracious enough to oblige as they kept feeding him with width.

Although the updated version brought him some success, a sprinkling of the England captain’s customary watchfulness might have fetched even better returns and consequently translated to longer stays at the crease.

Who knows, maybe he was staking a claim for regaining his spot at the top of the order in ODIs. With Eoin Morgan’s side endearing themselves to the English fans by finally following the rest of the world in the 50-overs format, Cook might have wanted to jump into the bandwagon as well.

#4 – Yasir rides his crests and troughs

Yasir Shah
Yasir‘s performance had more twists and turns than a rollercoaster

As they often say, ‘Test cricket is a great leveller’. When he marked his run-up at Lord’s, not a lot were predicting Yasir Shah to rip apart England’s batting lineup in the first-innings on a pitch which did not offer a lot to him.

However, he managed to do exactly that in a whirlwind spell which set the game up for Pakistan. Not content with claiming a five-wicket haul in his maiden Test outside Asia, the leg-spinner continued to torment the hosts and converted it into a ten-for during the second innings.

With his tail-up, Manchester was waiting for another spin session. But, Joe Root and Cook intervened and took him to the cleaners as the visitors were routed by 330 runs. Buoyed after cracking the Yasir Code, England’s batsmen did not allow him to settle by taking the attacking route.

Following assumptions of his Lord’s display being a flash in the pan, he single-handedly took on the responsibility to maintain Pakistan's fabled legacy of unpredictability and ended the series with another five-for.

#3 – Not finding the middle ground

James Vince
Vince looked completely out of depth at Test level

Probably, the difference between England drawing and winning the series was a lack of output from their middle-order. Having promoted Root to number three, the hosts needed those below him to stand up and make themselves counted.

However, James Vince and Gary Ballance could contribute only 353 runs with one fifty-plus score between them. Even though Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali tried their best to put on the rescue act, it did not come off every time.

In the end, an irate Cook lamented, “The lower order have got us out of trouble some of the time and it's great that we've got strength in depth down there. But the majority of the time they should be putting the icing on the cake, not making the cake.”

With a 5-Test tour to India scheduled in November, time is running out fast for England to solve their middle-order issues before the spin troika of Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra catch wind of it.

#2 – Can Woakes be Anderson’s successor?

Chris Woakes and James Anderson
Woakes seems ready to receive the mantle from his senior team-mate

With a decent effort in the preceding Test series at home against Sri Lanka, Chris Woakes did show a few signs of improvement. However, a bowling average of 41.25 from 8 matches refused to inspire much confidence.

Particularly, in the absence of swing merchant James Anderson at Lord’s, England’s bowling attack seemed reliant on a Stuart Broad special. But, it was Woakes who managed to keep them in the contest with his combination of unerring accuracy and sharp seam movement.

Unmindful of his spearhead’s return in the following game, the 27-year-old resumed from where he left off and never looked back. Aside from his skills with the ball, the right-hander’s steady batting was also a massive gain.

In the space of just four Tests, Woakes reduced his bowling average to 26.07 apart from making a strong case for himself to step into the big boots of Anderson upon the latter’s retirement.

#1 – Never write off Younis Khan

Younis Khan
Younis wrote his redemption song at The Oval

Younis Khan’s place in the game’s history is as enigmatic as his batting. Almost always a nervous starter, the veteran has time and again somehow delivered match-winning knocks out of nowhere. However, the murmurs attributing his status to subcontinent-style pitches does not seem to abate.

And, the way in which he went about his business during the first three Tests only added fuel to the fire. When confronted with the moving ball, the man saw fit to bring his dancing shoes on to counter the swing.

After producing just 122 runs until then, Younis was truly up against it when he strode on to the crease at The Oval. Having been written off by most, he responded in his own inimitable manner – a fighting innings without any prior indication.

Demoted down the order to avoid the newer-ball, the 38-year-old paid rich dividends by producing his sixth double ton and taking the game away from England’s reach. Alongwith the silky drives and supple flicks, his trademark broad smile returned as well.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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