Two mirror images were played out at Lord’s and Leeds – inverted of course. After mauling England in the first Test, it was Pakistan’s turn to be mauled in the second. Even the second innings scores of both sides after dismissing the other for a similar score in the first innings were identical.
Considering the English conditions – which were fully in play at Headingley – after Pakistan had gone 1-0 up in the series, it could only have ended 1-1 or in a 2-0 sweep for the visitors, with the draw being extremely unlikely.
While England weren’t exactly brimming with confidence following defeats in Australia and New Zealand, both the Tests for Pakistan were supposed to pan out the way the second one did. This was further reinforced when Pakistan barely got home against Ireland in their first ever Test a week before the Lord’s Test.
So was it just a case of two sides playing contrastingly in the two Tests that were influenced by both captains mistakenly choosing to bat first after winning either toss?
In a way, yes. But in Pakistan’s case the reminder that they can actually play to that level that they exhibited in Lord’s would’ve meant a lot more than England’s showing at Leeds, which the hosts would take for granted in their conditions.
In this regard, Pakistan’s defeat at Leeds is neither surprising, nor a catastrophe. The former because once England brought their A game, it was always going to be hard for Pakistan to keep pace, and the latter because after having won the Lord’s Test, a 1-1 draw is more than what pretty much anyone was giving them ahead of the series.
So Pakistan would be happy to take a 1-1 draw, especially since they weren’t being given a sniff, but these should not have been captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s words following the Leeds defeat.
It is true that Pakistan deserve credit for the series result that they have achieved, but Sarfraz should not be putting it out like that after suffering an innings defeat. His focus should’ve been on the disappointment at being overpowered to such an extent, and then more subtly pushing the point over that they came into the series as outsiders.
Following the whitewash in the UAE against Sri Lanka in October, a 1-1 draw in England is indeed a big result, with the win against Ireland to boot.
Pakistan’s next challenge in Tests would be Australia and New Zealand in the ‘home’ series, likeliest to be played in the UAE – although talks are also going on to host those two sides in Malaysia. And following the Lord’s win, Pakistan would absolutely take a lot of confidence going into the series.
The performances of Babar Azam and Shadab Khan with the bat, should be encouraging for both the players and the team. Imam-ul-Haq might’ve cemented himself as well for the Australia and New Zealand series, especially following the match-winning innings against Ireland. Haris Sohail too would’ve established his place.
However, none of the Pakistani batsmen could score a century in the three Tests on the tour. Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali weren’t quite the leaders that they were supposed to be with the bat despite the odd decent innings. Sarfraz seems to have completely lost his form with the bat.
With a Man of the Series Award against England, Mohammad Abbas is perhaps the biggest gainer for Pakistan, and now the team’s frontline pacer. Mohammed Amir was as hit and miss as he has been since his return to Test cricket.
Neither Hasan Ali nor Faheem Ashraf did quite enough to cement themselves in the side. The latter did more with the bat than the ball, and has the potential to become a decent all-rounder along with Shadab Khan.
Hence, Pakistan do have their fair share of positives to take home from England. But it’s evident that the Test side is still very much a work in progress.