England vs Pakistan: Chris Woakes and Steven Finn inspire hosts to third Test victory and take series lead

England 297 & 445-6d, Pakistan 400 & 201: England win by 141 runs and take a 2-1 series lead

Chris Stocks
Edgbaston
Sunday 07 August 2016 16:27
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Moeen Ali celebrate with his England teammates after taking the final Pakistan wicket of Sohail Khan
Moeen Ali celebrate with his England teammates after taking the final Pakistan wicket of Sohail Khan

The margin might not have been as slim and the finale as dramatic as their famous 2005 Ashes win on this ground, but England’s victory in this third Test will sit aside that epic contest as one of their finest of the modern era.

It was eleven years to the day since Michael Vaughan’s team sealed an unforgettable two-run success against Australia at Edgbaston that defined the summer of 2005.

This was not the Ashes and this Pakistan team are by no means great. Yet given the match situation and the nature of England’s emphatic triumph, this was a remarkable performance.

Having conceded a 103-run first-innings deficit on the third day, it took Alastair Cook’s current team less than 48 hours to turn the tables on the tourists so convincingly that they now head to London tomorrow with a 2-1 series lead and a shot at reclaiming the world No 1 Test ranking.

Another victory at The Oval would see England climb to the top for the first time since 2012, providing India don’t win both their final two Tests in the West Indies.

England celebrate their 141-run victory over Pakistan

At lunch, with Pakistan 69 for one and chasing a notional 343 to win, this match appeared destined for a draw.

However, England’s bowlers seized control of the contest by taking six wickets during a crazy afternoon session that left Pakistan on 148 for seven and teetering on the brink of defeat at tea.

At one point, the tourists lost four wickets for one run in 22 balls. Chris Woakes and Steven Finn shared four of them to spread panic amongst Pakistan’s batsmen. James Anderson and Moeen Ali, England’s much-maligned merchant of off-spin, grabbed the other two wickets to bring the previously unlikely prospect of victory close to reality.

Within 15 overs of the evening session, the game was up for Pakistan as Cook’s side, whose chance of winning this game after the first innings was a paltry 3.7 per cent, took the three wickets needed to finish off the job in style.

Steven Finn is swamped by his England teammates after taking the wicket of Sami Aslam

Worries over who comes in to replace the Hampshire batsman, though, can wait.

This victory, manufactured under real pressure and with the series on the line, should be proudly celebrated.

To underline the smash and grab nature of this final-day heist, it was only the third time in history England have taken nine wickets or more in the final two sessions to win a Test. The other occasions were in Sydney 1979, Adelaide 1995 and Johannesburg 2005.

The fifth and final morning had begun with Cook being criticised over his decision not to declare overnight – despite the fact his side already had a 311-run lead.

England can go top of the Test rankings for the first time since 2012 with a victory in the fourth Test

Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, who shared an unbroken 132-run stand the previous evening, were tasked with taking the game completely out of Pakistan’s grasp. Although Bairstow fell quickly, Cook pulled the plug after four overs and declared with his side on 445 for six and the lead 342.

That left Pakistan needing to bat out 84 overs to survive and ensure this week’s final Test at The Oval was a one-off shoot-out for the series.

On a flat pitch offering little to anyone the previous four days, that was an eminently achievable prospect, even when they lost Mohammad Hafeez in the fifth over of their innings – the opener known as ‘The Professor’ showing a distinct lack of brains as he pulled Stuart Broad to Woakes at fine leg.

By lunch any hopes England has of precipitating a Pakistan wobble with the new ball evaporated as Sami Aslam, the opener playing just his third Test, steadied the ship alongside Azhar Ali.

Quite why Aslam was not playing from the start of this series is anyone’s guess. He has shown more composure in one match than predecessor Shan Masood has for his whole career.

Chris Woakes celebrates after taking a wicket on the final day of the Test against Pakistan

After lunch, Aslam went on to become the first Pakistan opener since Saeed Anwar in 1996 to score half-centuries in both innings of a Test in England.

Yet the tourists had lost two wickets by then, Moeen having Azhar caught by Cook at second slip and Anderson, during a mesmeric spell of reverse swing, having Younis Khan caught behind for four by the diving Jonny Bairstow.

Finn came into the attack to replace Anderson and after 73.4 overs since his last Test wicket – against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in June – he made the crucial breakthrough to dismiss Misbah-ul-Haq, edging a beautiful delivery behind.

Pakistan, on 14 for four, had lost their captain and linchpin and had 36 overs left to survive.

Within four overs they 125 for seven as Woakes removed Asad Shafiq, who bagged a pair, and Sarfraz Ahmed in successive overs before Finn emphatically bowled the impressive Aslam for 70.

Stuart Broad celebrates taking the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez

The tea break, delayed by 15 minutes as a result was now possible, gave Pakistan some respite.

But it didn’t last long, Yasir Shah fending Anderson to gully five balls into the evening session and Mohammad Amir driving Broad to point three overs later.

Pakistan’s final-wicket pair put on 50 to keep England waiting for 11.1 overs.

And there was an injury worry for the hosts too during that time as well when Vince dislocated a finger attempting to catch Rahat Ali off Broad. Despite that blow, a sensational victory was finally sealed when Moeen took a fine return catch to remove Sohail Khan and spark wild celebrations.

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