Joe Root made a complete mockery of the flat and lifeless pitch in Rawalpindi for the first Test between England and Pakistan after batting left-handed on the fourth day on Sunday. The pitch has been savaged by fans and commentators around the world after England amassed 657 in their first innings, before Pakistan replied with 579.
England then declared at 7-264 in their second innings on Sunday, setting Pakistan 343 runs for victory. Ben Stokes' bold declaration loomed as the only way to force a result on the dull pitch in Rawalpindi, which saw seven players post centuries in the first innings.
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The batting conditions were so easy on day four that Root even resorted to batting left-handed at one stage. The former England captain made a quick-fire 73 off 69 balls as the tourists chased quick runs on Sunday.
With Pakistan packing the leg-side field and bowling at his pads, Root decided to face up to leg-spinner Zahid Mehmood left-handed. The England batter was lucky to survive after being dropped by Naseem Shah after playing a slog-sweep, but his ability to bat from the wrong side against a spinner on a fourth day wicket showed how farcical the state of the pitch is.
“That is remarkable what I have just seen,” former England captain Nasser Hussain said in commentary. “Joe Root has not even bothered changing sides.”
England assistant coach Paul Collingwood said after stumps: “He does – sometimes – [do it in the nets] but he looks better left-handed than I did as a right-hander. He has some skill to bat left-handed in a Test.
"We're finding ways to go against convention. If he feels a leg-spinner bowling into the rough, he can go left-handed, then he goes for it.”
While some fans and commentator saw the funny side of Root's actions, others felt it was a bad look for the game. Many described it as a 'disgrace' and blamed the pitch for the embarrassing farce.
I cant play the sweep shot even while batting right handed and here's Joe Root casually playing it perfectly batting left handed... IN A TEST MATCH!
Incredible 🤯😅 https://t.co/zxdMBTDZxv
— Tabraiz Shamsi (@shamsi90) December 4, 2022
Joe Root batting at Test level left-handed, what a mockery 😂😂😂
— England's Barmy Army (@TheBarmyArmy) December 4, 2022
Joe Root decided to randomly face one of Zahid Mehmood's deliveries left handed. Extraordinarily audacious. It's like playing a video game you've completed many times...err...left handed just for a laugh. You can tell he's really enjoying his cricket right now #PAKvENG pic.twitter.com/20vHMbrwv6
— Aatif Nawaz (@AatifNawaz) December 4, 2022
Joe Root has started batting as a left hander. What a disgrace
— Azeem (@Azeem_Views) December 4, 2022
— Wasiq 🇵🇸 (@HussainWasiq09) December 4, 2022
Is this a joke??!! I mean, for a batting colossus such as #JoeRoot it's too easy to bat right handed on a belter of a track at #Rawalpindi. Such pitches are embarrassing for the future of Test cricket. @ICC should really consider rating it 'poor' as per me. #ENGvPAK https://t.co/hEE1vQ13iZ
— Anish Padhye (@PadhyeAnish) December 4, 2022
Ben Stokes declaration sets up thrilling Test finish
Ben Stokes' team scored 264 runs in just 35.5 overs in their second innings on Sunday at a run rate of more than 7.5 an over. Pakistan then went to stumps at 2-80, needing another 263 runs for victory on day five.
"It's exciting, isn't it? On a pitch that's been pretty docile and slow, and to be in a position now to watch a game that's exciting tomorrow, it's going to be great for everyone," said Collingwood. "The bigger picture of what they (Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum) want is Test cricket to be entertaining and the way we have forced the game has got us a Test match tomorrow that everyone wants to watch.
"I'm looking forward to our guys going out there and eking out another seven wickets to go on and win the Test match. We are confident we can do it. The boys have shown they are willing to come up with different plans to take wickets out there and it is going to be an exciting day.
"It has been pretty clear right from the start we are willing to lose games for the sake of putting ourselves in the position to win them. Some might say it is an early declaration. We will see tomorrow if it is or if it is a really good declaration.
"We are not scared of losing, which is a good position to be in. Tomorrow, hopefully, we can get on the right side and get a win."
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