As the Barmy Army trumpeter in the stands pootled out Ghost Town in tribute to the late Terry Hall, England wrapped up a historic clean sweep in Pakistan that could easily earn them the tag of The Specials.
Ben Stokes and Ben Duckett needed just 38 minutes to get the job done on the fourth morning in Karachi, the pair of left-handers knocking off the remaining 55 runs in a target of 167 to complete a thumping eight-wicket victory. Duckett finished unbeaten on 82 from 78 balls – his 12th four cut off Mohammad Wasim to seal the win – with his captain 35 not out at the other end.
It meant England became the first visiting team to win three Tests in a series in Pakistan. They have also registered their ninth victory in 10 Tests since Stokes was appointed as captain and paired with a new head coach in New Zealander Brendon McCullum; as a calendar year, only 2004 – which witnessed 11 Test victories under Michael Vaughan – sits above it.
They have done so playing a remarkable brand of dynamic, aggressive Test cricket. Harry Brook finished their top-scorer in Pakistan with 468 runs and three centuries – a strike-rate of 93 in keeping with the entire top six – while Duckett finished with 357 on his return to the side.
“We stuck to our game plans and adapted really well,” Stokes said afterwards. “Particularly with the ball, whoever I threw it to they seemed to deliver. The commitment and mindset has been top drawer.
“It comes down to belief, the belief that I have and the 10 other guys. That resonates around everyone, the confidence everyone has gives me so much confidence in myself too.
“We knew what cricket means to Pakistan … we felt like the cricket that was being played was being celebrated. To walk off to a reception at every ground was very special.”
That England’s task was so straightforward on the fourth day was a result of the barnstorming third that saw Rehan Ahmed become the youngest men’s Test cricketer to take a five-wicket haul on debut – figures of 5-48 changing the complexion of the day – and a wonderfully ambitious bid to vaporise the entire target that evening.
This was also their first Test win since 2007 without one of Stuart Broad or Jimmy Anderson in the XI. Not that the times are necessarily changing here, the latter having played a central role on this tour with eight wickets at 18 runs apiece, plus a typically miserly economy rate of 2.2. At 40 years old, Anderson remains at the peak of his powers.
Indeed, the series was a triumph for England’s seamers as a collective. Ollie Robinson demonstrated his skills with the old ball en route to nine wickets at 21, while Mark Wood’s extra pace picked up eight at 20 and proved match-winning on that dramatic fourth day in Multan. Pakistan’s seam attack, shorn of the injured Shaheen Shah Afridi admittedly, was comfortably second best across the three Tests.
Jack Leach finished as England’s leading wicket-taker, his 15 wickets including the rush of three for none in six balls on the third morning in Karachi. Only Abrar Ahmed finished with the more, the mystery spinner’s emergence during the final two Tests returning 17 victims and his omission for the series-opener in Rawalpindi rather summing up Pakistan’s slightly confused selection throughout.
There is mounting pressure on the hosts locally, with a growing expectation that Ramiz Raja, chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board, will soon be moved on, and former chair Najam Sethi restored to the role by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
Captain Babar Azam may require a positive outcome from the two-Test series against New Zealand that starts on Boxing Day in Karachi to quell some of the noise around his future in the role – this a fourth successive Test defeat at home after Australia’s 1-0 series win earlier in the year. – Guardian