Anderson and Robinson bowl England to stunning first Test win over Pakistan

A glance down the scorecard may have suggested a limited role by way of numbers but as Ben Stokes basked in the afterglow of a stunning last-gasp win over Pakistan, sealed moments before an orange sun slunk below the horizon, his impact felt as vast as the nearby foothills of the Himalayas.

This was not just a victory that will go down in the history books as one of England’s greatest overseas – just their third in these parts and coming after a 17-year absence. It was vindication of their captain’s bold and revolutionary new orders, be it the unencumbered rapid-fire batting he has demanded, his innovative no-holds-barred tactics in the field or his disdain for the notion of playing for a draw.

For the second time this year a lifeless pitch was prepared in Rawalpindi but unlike Pakistan’s stalemate against Australia in March – which did not even reach the fourth innings – England were intent on delivering a result for the wonderfully joyful local crowds. They broadened the canvas for this by scoring quicker than any Test team in two innings – 6.73 per over – before setting their hosts what looked an achievable 343 to win in four sessions.

Then, on the final day, they threw everything they physically had at Pakistan’s lineup, Jimmy Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Stokes pounding away remorselessly for the majority once it became clear the spinners were offering little. That was until 4.38pm local time, barely 10 minutes before sunset, when, in the gloaming, Jack Leach was thrown the second new ball and skidded it into the pads of Naseem Shah for possibly the loudest lbw shout of his career.

The finger went up but having survived a frantic half-hour with the No 11, Mohammad Ali, Naseem had to review. It meant the English vultures who had crowded the tailender ready to pounce on any catches were forced to wait a little longer. When three reds came up on the Hawk-Eye projection it sparked jubilant scenes in the middle before darkness soon fell and the call to prayer rang out.

Any cricketer will tell you fifth-day Test wins are the most satisfying by dint of the effort required. And though both teams lost players to injury mid-match – Liam Livingstone and Haris Rauf – England’s challenges went beyond simply the 22 yards of unyielding earth rolled out. The virus that had spread through the camp on the eve of the match left a good number drained before a ball had been bowled and Ben Foakes, a trump card of a wicketkeeper in the subcontinent, had to miss out.

As such, while Robinson was named player of the match, Anderson’s class shone and Harry Brook earlier dazzled when ransacking scores of 153 and 87, a special mention should go to Ollie Pope. Not only was the 24-year-old one of the four centurions in England’s first-innings blitz to 657, he undertook 251 overs of work behind the stumps in just his seventh first-class game with the gloves, effecting seven dismissals.

It would have been a huge injustice had one of the ones that got away ended up haunting him. With Pakistan nine down, Naseem edged Stokes and the ball flew between Pope and Joe Root at first slip. Both men staring at each other – it was Pope’s catch – the miss could easily have been the defining image of a nail-biting final session that returned only 11 runs but remarkable drama.

Resuming on 80 for two first thing, it was not obvious Pakistan had designs on the target initially, 13 runs scored before drinks as Anderson and Robinson began their work. As an aside, along with the inventive fields he set, it says plenty about the mentality shift Stokes has brought that a pitch that might have been kryptonite to English fast-mediums in the past was approached with boundless optimism.

The initial incision came from arguably the worst ball the otherwise immaculate Anderson sent down, Imam-ul-Haq strangled down the leg side to leave the hosts 89 for three. But Mohammad Rizwan joined Saud Shakeel and they upped the ante when the seamers had to graze and reached 169 for three at lunch. Will Jacks had claimed six wickets in Pakistan’s first innings but all three England spinners were targeted, informing Stokes’s approach during an arm-wrestle of an afternoon.

The captain led from the front here, sending down 11 straight overs of self-flagellation from the Pavilion End while rotating Robinson and Anderson at the other. Two breakthroughs followed, Anderson nicking off the dangerous Rizwan for 46 and Robinson profiting from a lapse in concentration when Shakeel, on 76, clothed to a diving Keaton Jennings at catching cover.

At the other end, Azhar Ali had resumed his innings after retiring on day four with a busted finger. The 37-year-old was gutsy, often recoiling upon impact with the ball, and managed to graft his side to 257 for five at tea alongside the only other remaining batter in Agha Salman. The target was now under 100 and, along with a drop off Azhar by Pope down leg, Leach had an lbw decision against Salman overturned on height to the surprise of many.

But Pakistan’s ambition was doused after the restart, Robinson swiftly wiping out both set batsmen with reverse swing and Anderson compounding this withadding the tail-end wickets of Haris and Zahid Mahmood in the space of three balls. The seamers pushed their bodies to the limit – four wickets apiece the rewards – with the former displaying his new-found fitness and the latter still defying the sands of time.

Time nearly threatened to run out on England though, the tense late passage of play seeing resolute defence and understandable stalling tactics from the hosts. Instead, they head to Multan with a 1-0 lead. Given the way Stokes and the head coach, Brendon McCullum, are talking, don’t expect them to sit on it.