This was another compelling and enthralling Test match which has to convince anyone who cares, that this game must never die. England somehow managed to snatch victory from Pakistan after they had been outplayed for three and a half days.
England bowled well in the morning of day one, with Anderson in particular passing the outside edge on numerous occasions. Pakistan had just passed 50 at lunch for the loss of two wickets. The afternoon session was very different, with an insipid bowling display gifting the Pakistani batsmen far too many boundaries, and Bess unable to offer any control.
The poor session was compounded by Buttler missing two chances from Masood when he was on 45, off the bowling of Bess. Masood went on to compile a brilliant 156, alongside 69 from the impressive Babar Azam, to help Pakistan to a first innings total of 326. It was easy to think that Foakes would have taken those chances, and Buttler was clearly under pressure.
In reply, England were only able to reach 219 due to excellent bowling from Pakistan. They have a beautifully balanced attack. With a young tearaway quick, a tall fast bowler, an accurate seamer in the mould of Philander and two dangerous leg-spinners, they have all bases covered.
Pakistan then proceeded to give England a glimmer of hope on day three when they crashed to 137 for 8, thanks to a heroic four overs from Ben Stokes. With Pakistan threatening to build an unassailable lead, Root threw the ball to a half fit Stokes, who had an immediate impact, finishing with figures of 2 for 11 off 4 overs.
Several partnerships were needed by England and they got off to a reasonable start with Sibley and Root contributing 78 between them. Quick wickets followed, however, to leave England reeling on 115 for 5. Stokes and Pope were both dismissed by unplayable rearing deliveries and Pakistan were rampant and noisy.
Something special was clearly needed and it was provided by the unlikely pair of Woakes and Buttler. Having seen the way Pope was dismissed and with the new ball imminent, they decided to go on the attack. Both batsmen drove confidently through the off side, while sweeping and reverse sweeping the spinners successfully. Gradually, the fielding side grew quieter as an England win looked increasingly possible. The one day scenario seemed to release the shackles for both men.
Obviously there had to be a late twist, which came when Buttler was out LBW to Yasir Shah with 21 still needed. Broad was sent in ahead of Bess and helped England to within 4 of the target. Woakes then hit the winning runs via a leading edge through the slip cordon to complete an epic victory.
After the match, Root told the press that his team always has belief, after the incredible achievements of the World Cup Final and Headingley 2019. The character of this side is undoubted. Some questions remain though, looking to the future : Will Leach replace Bess in the next Test? Will Wood come in for Archer or Anderson? Will Crawley come in at 3 again, in the absence of Stokes?
I believe that if Archer is in the side he should be used sparingly as a strike bowler. At the moment he seems unable or unwilling to consistently bowl above 85mph, which is frustrating for everyone. I also think that Buttler has earned himself a reprieve, after making amends for his mistakes behind the stumps with his stunning knock. The selectors will be considering the classic wicket keeping conundrum. Foakes may have taken the chances Buttler missed, but would he have been able to score the runs?