Australian cricket legend Ian Chappell has warned his countrymen that England's extraordinary Test victory over Pakistan has given them a "conundrum" ahead of next year's Ashes series. Ben Stokes' England side 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.
Widely hailed as one of England cricket's greatest ever Test triumphs, it came after both sides combined for a staggering 1768 runs - the most-ever for a five-day Test and the third-most of all time. Only the timeless Test matches between South Africa and England at Durban in 1939 (1981 runs), and the West Indies vs England Test at Kingston in 1930 (1815 runs) produced more runs.
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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.
The bold declaration and the aggressive English run-rate had all the hallmarks of the fabled 'Bazball' philosophy from new coach Brendon McCullum. After all, England amassed 921 runs from 136.5 overs in the match, scoring at the blistering Test cricket pace of 6.73 runs per over.
Referring to the combination of captain Stokes and coach 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."
Chappell agreed and said it would be fascinating to see how Pat Cummins' Aussie side approached their defence of the Ashes, when the series gets underway in England in June next year. The Test great says the manner of England's astonishing win in Pakistan will leave the Aussie captain and his side with plenty of questions to answer.
"I'm sure that everybody looks at what the good teams are doing and tries to emulate them, but the question is, are you good enough?" Chappell asked Wide World of Sports. "As far as Aus tralia is concerned, how does Pat Cummins look at England, and how does he go about playing against them in England next year?
"Stokes has set him a conundrum. First he has to figure out if England will play that way against Australia, and it will be harder against Australia's better bowlers. And secondly, does Cummins want Australia to play like that, and will it work? You've really got to give Stokes marks for taking the initiative."
Chappell says Stokes and England showed tremendous courage to take on Pakistan's bowlers with such aggression, before giving their opponents every chance of winning the match by declaring when they did. Having set Pakistan a tempting victory target of 343 in four sessions on a docile track, the home side needed just 86 runs at roughly four-an-over to secure victory in the final session. However, the tourists took the last five wickets for 11 runs, bowling Pakistan out for 268.
Ian Chappell offers Australia 'Bazball' caution
While the former Australia captain has - like much of the cricketing world - been blown away by 'Bazball' and the England side's astonishing Test triumph, he was quick to offer a word of caution. Chappell says the exciting approach from England that some experts say is revolutionising Test cricket, may not necessarily work for Australia.
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."
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