Cricket fans have flooded social media to congratulate England on what many are calling the greatest Test victory in the country's history. Ben Stokes' men pulled off an unthinkable 74-run victory in the first match against Pakistan in Rawalpindi, to record their first Test win in the country in 17 years.
A result looked highly unlikely after England's mammoth 657-run first innings total was followed by 579 from Pakistan on one of the flattest and most lifeless pitches in recent memory. However, a brave call from Stokes to declare at 7-264 gave the visitors a chance and they closed out the remarkable victory in style on a thrilling final day.
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Having set Pakistan a tempting victory target of 343 in four sessions on a docile track, the home side looked in the box seat to seal victory after making it to lunch at 3-169, having started day five on 2-80. Even by tea and with five wickets still in hand, the Pakistanis needed just 86 runs at roughly four-an-over to secure victory. However, the tourists took the last five wickets for 11 runs, bowling the hosts out for 268.
Pakistan's last pair of Naseem Shah and Mohammad Ali resisted for nearly nine overs before the former fell lbw to Jack Leach barely 10 minutes before the scheduled end of play. After a tense wait for a DRS review England celebrated with exhausted joy. There was less than ten minutes light left.
“That is one of the greatest Test match victories you will ever see,” former England captain and commentator Nasser Hussain declared. "It has to be one of England's finest ever Test match wins," Another former captain Michael Atherton added: "I couldn't think of another England side that would have won the game on this pitch."
Many other viewers were quick to make the same declaration, with England's win sending social media into meltdown.
A result for either side in the Test was nothing short of a miracle, considering the 1768 runs scored by both sides made it the most-ever in a five-day Test, and third-highest of all-time behind the South Africa/England Test at Durban in 1939 (1981 runs), and the West Indies/England Test at Kingston in 1930 (1815 runs).
England claims famous Test victory
Referring to the combination of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, former Australian Test batter Mark Waugh tweeted: 'McCullum/Stokes changing the way test cricket is to be played. Courageous, fearless positive mindset gets them a win in Rawalpindi on the most docile surface. I don't think any other team in world cricket would have rolled the dice like that. Bring on the Ashes next year.'
England's win was all the more incredible considering the virus that swept through the team before the Test got underway. Indeed, if it had started one day earlier, England may not have been able to field a side.
"A few days ago we were running around trying to start on time," Stokes said about the virus which affected several England players and ruled out wicketkeeper Ben Foakes. "So credit to the group for coming here, turning up under the weather...What we've had to deal with coming in makes this win even better.
"I think it's up there with one of England's greatest away Test match wins. Jimmy Anderson said he was feeling very emotional trying to keep himself together. Having a bloke who's played nearly 180 Test matches to feel like that at the end of this, I think we've achieved something very special this week."
"I don't think I've seen a better week of captaincy," said Nasser Hussain, who was captain the last time England won away to Pakistan, in Karachi in 2000. They needed to do everything right to go 1-0 up and they did. On the flattest of flat pitches, Pakistan played their part, but in the end England's run-rate and heart just blew them away."
Pakistan captain Babar Azam rued the fact the Test slipped away from his side, declaring: "We were not up to the mark. We had a golden chance to win this Test, but session by session we kept losing wickets." The second Test in Multan begins on Friday.
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