Ben Stokes was rewarded for his bold declaration, attacking fields and shrewd tactics as England completed a famous 74-run victory over Pakistan late in the final session of the first Test in Rawalpindi to claim one of their greatest wins.
Jack Leach trapped Naseem Shah (6) lbw in the fading light as Pakistan were dismissed for 268 and Stokes became just the third England captain, after Ted Dexter in 1961 and Nasser Hussain in 2000, to win a Test match in the country.
Stokes had declared at tea on day four, dangling the carrot for Pakistan by giving them four sessions to score 343 on the most placid of surfaces, hoping that chance of a win would embolden the hosts and hand England a better chance of prising 10 wickets.
Pakistan were favourites at tea on day five, having turned their overnight 80-2 into 257-5 and needing just a further 86 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series ahead of Friday’s second Test in Multan.
But Ollie Robinson (4-50) cracked the game open for England by dismissing set batters Agha Salman (30) and Azhar Ali (40) – snapping a stand of 61 for the sixth wicket – from reverse-swinging deliveries with the old ball, which Stokes had persevered with despite the new one being available.
Wicketkeeper Ollie Pope then took a stunning catch down the leg-side off James Anderson (4-36) to remove Zahid Mahmood (1), before Anderson pinned Haris Rauf (0) lbw two deliveries later in a double-wicket maiden to leave Pakistan nine down and England on the brink.
Naseem and Mohammad Ali (0) frustrated England for nine overs, with Naseem edging Stokes between Pope and slip fielder Joe Root, but Leach finally had the former out leg before with the new ball as Stokes’ side recorded an astonishing triumph on the flattest of pitches and their seventh win in eight Tests under his leadership.
England’s success was clinched by Leach but manufactured by Stokes, who deserves enormous credit for risking defeat in order to push for victory and provide an entertaining finale, with his positive leadership and his side’s blistering batting throughout the Test ensuring both teams had a shot at glory on the final day.
Anderson strikes early before Pakistan rally in Rawalpindi
England took two wickets on the fourth evening – Abdullah Shafique (6) and Babar Azam (4) out to bouncers from Robinson and Stokes respectively – and would have had a third had substitute fielder Keaton Jennings been able to snaffle Saud Shakeel (76) at short leg on 22 off the bowling of left-arm spinner Leach.
Shakeel made the most of the reprieve by scoring a fifty on Test debut, sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 87 with Mohammad Rizwan (46) from 89-3 after Anderson had Imam-ul-Haq (48) caught down the leg-side by Pope during a first hour which brought only 13 runs.
Pakistan were 93-3 at drinks, with Rizwan scoreless from 23 deliveries, but the tempo changed once spin was introduced, starting when Rizwan cracked Will Jacks for two leg-side fours in the over after the break.
Rizwan continued to target Jacks, Leach and Root – striking two sixes amid a pre-lunch boundary flurry – while Shakeel began to open up, too, and clinched his fifty from 104 balls with a four off Leach.
Stokes was always in the game as captain, geeing up his team and persisting with ultra-aggressive fields, but was not seen with the ball until immediately after lunch as Pakistan resumed on 169-3, needing a further 174 runs for victory.
Stokes inspires England as famous win secured
It was fellow seamer Anderson who made the breakthrough, forcing Rizwan to snick a ball in the channel outside off stump through to Pope, and England were bouncing when Jennings belatedly atoned for shelling Shakeel on Sunday night by pouching him superbly at short cover on Monday afternoon, off Robinson.
Azhar and Salman frustrated England as Stokes, Robinson and Anderson found some reverse swing – Stokes getting through a bone-jarring 11-over spell – with both batters beaten on their outside edge and seeing in-duckers target their pads and stumps.
It was the spin of Leach that came close to engineering another wicket but ball-tracking said his delivery to Salman would have bounced over the stumps so the lbw decision was overturned, while when Pope dropped Azhar down the leg-side off Robinson in the final over before tea, the tourists’ heads could have dropped.
Stokes was having none of it, chatting to his team on the field before they headed in for the break to remind them they could still force a positive result and then rewarded for opting not to bring the fresh Kookaburra into play, as well as his use of DRS, as Robinson had Salman trapped leg before on review.
Robinson then forced Azhar to whip to Root at leg slip in his next over, before the tail were, ultimately, no match for England as the tourists marked their first Test in Pakistan since 2005 with victory – one which Stokes instigated as he stuck true to his word about making the longest format a must-watch spectacle and not playing for draws.
What they said
England captain Ben Stokes
“One thing we try and do is focus on ourselves, rather than the opposition. We know we are a very exciting team and it’s a great batting surface, so it was a real opportunity for the batters.
“We have got some broken bodies after that. It’s amazing to see the amount of enthusiasm and heart the lads showed. I don’t think I have seen a group of players who have put their bodies on the lines [as much].”
Pakistan captain Babar Azam
“We start with the bowling, but we are not up to the mark. After that, we try to up our score in the first innings. I think in the second innings, we had a golden chance to win the match.
“We expected the declaration, and we had a plan. But I think we have an opportunity to win, but we lost wickets and didn’t build partnerships.”
Player of the match Ollie Robinson
“I think the pitch wasn’t favourable for our seamers, but we managed to get the ball going, and we toiled out there today. Every single man left nothing behind, and it was a great effort.
“We had to be patient, we knew if we could get a fresh batter in we’d have a good chance. We knew it would be hard, but we toiled away. The batters gave us the opportunity.”
The second Test takes place in Multan from Friday (build-up starts at 4.30am on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event ahead of the first ball at 5am) with Pakistan looking to level up the series ahead of the final fixture in Karachi from December 17, which is also live on Sky Sports.