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The Young and the Old Shine in the Gloom

After a short break, the players returned to the Rose Bowl for the third and final Test of the series. England made just one change to their side, bringing back Jofra Archer for Sam Curran to add some pace to the attack, but also lengthening the tail; Pakistan, meanwhile, were unchanged. Joe Root won the toss and, despite the windy and overcast conditions, decided to bat first.


Shaheen Shah Afridi soon had Rory Burns out, caught in the slips, the third time in four innings he’d picked him up early on. Zak Crawley came in and immediately looked confident, hitting his first ball for four. He and Dom Sibley moved on positively, adding fifty in just 67 balls, before Sibley came down the wicket to Yasir Shah and was LBW, Michael Gough giving the sort of decision that would have been unlikely pre-DRS but was absolutely spot-on. With the last ball before lunch, Crawley went to fifty (off 80 balls) and England went into the break on 91 for two.


In the afternoon session, Root was looking settled until he got a terrific delivery from Naseem Shah that caught the edge and Mohammad Rizwan went flying to his right to remove the England skipper for 29. Ollie Pope was beaten all ends up by Yasir’s slider and England were in a spot of bother on 127 for four, as Jos Buttler came to the crease, the last of the recognised batsmen, with only Chris Woakes and the tail to come.


Buttler, after a decent summer with the bat, also got off the mark first ball with a boundary and the pair soon got on with their work. When Crawley went past 76, he had his highest Test score and continued on from there. The pair took England through to tea on 184 for four, with Crawley 97 not out at the break, having to stew for 20 minutes with a maiden century so close.


He didn’t have long to wait, soon after easing one through the covers to bring up his hundred in 171 balls. It had been a superb innings so far, with shots all around the ground and a real positive intent. Buttler was largely the quieter of the pair, though he did hit Yasir for 16 in an over, including two sixes, to take the partnership up to a hundred. His fifty wasn’t long after in coming, in 85 balls. Crawley’s next landmark followed as he reached 150 in 233 balls.


With the Pakistan attack wilting, after 80 overs with the score on 288 for four, they went straight for the new ball to try to change things. It didn’t. On 169, Crawley had his highest first-class score in what was only the fourth century of his career. Buttler, so often dismissed in his sixties and seventies, went through that vulnerable period and so the pair went on to complete their 200 partnership in 304 balls and the day finished with the score on 332 for four, England in complete control.


The second day began as the first had ended, with Crawley and Buttler in complete control, though not without a brief bedding-in process, an interruption for rain and the challenge of some excellent bowling from Mohammad Abbas. Then, with Buttler on 99, he was given out caught behind by umpire Illingworth, but the sound was shown to be bat on pad on review, and he survived. Straight after, he ensured there were no more dramas, going to his hundred in 189 balls, his second Test century. By lunch, England had moved on to 373 for four, and Crawley was closing in on a double century.


The next landmark, however, came when the partnership reached 255, setting a new England record for the fifth wicket, beating the total compiled by Keith Fletcher and Tony Greig in Mumbai in 1973. Crawley raced through the 190s with a superb shot to the mid-wicket boundary soon followed by an edge through the slip cordon taking him to 201 in 331 balls; only David Gower and Len Hutton had scored a double century when younger than Crawley’s 22 years and 201 days.


After batting together for 490 balls, the partnership hit 300 and the runs were flowing as Pakistan wilted. Crawley reached 250 in 372 balls, and looked the complete master of the game. Eventually, it had to end as Crawley ran past one from Asad Shafiq and was stumped on 267 off 393 balls. It was the highest Test score ever made by a batsman out stumped, the second highest maiden century by an England batsman (behind Reginald ‘Tip’ Foster’s 287 v Australia in 1903) and the tenth highest score ever by an England batsman. His 359 partnership with Buttler was England’s highest for any wicket against Pakistan, the joint fourth highest for the fifth wicket in all Tests, and the highest fifth-wicket partnership in all first-class cricket at the Rose Bowl. Soon after, tea was taken with England on 490 for five.


After the break, England made steady progress, with Buttler finally falling for 152, chipping a short one from Fawad straight back to the bowler. It was not only his highest Test score but also his highest score in all first-class cricket. It was the fifth time an England wicket-keeper had scored 150 or more, with Alec Stewart (173 and 164) and Jonny Bairstow (167* and 150*) the others to achieve the feat. Chris Woakes then drilled one off Fawad to extra cover to fall for 40 (averaging 71.50 with the bat in the series) just ahead of the expected declaration. Stuart Broad came in and added two more sixes to take his career total up to 48 and when he was yorked, England declared on 583 for eight, six short of their highest-ever score against Pakistan.


After almost two days in the field, it was a tough ask for Pakistan’s openers Shan Masood and Abid Ali to see things out to the close. Broad nearly had Shan LBW with his second delivery, but DRS showed the impact was just outside the line. Then James Anderson had Shan for the eighth time in 12 innings against England, plumb in front. In his next over, Anderson had Abid edging to third slip as Pakistan got off to the worst possible start. Pakistan’s key batsman Babar Azam was out LBW just before the close, again to Anderson, and the day ended with them in deep trouble on 24 for three.


Early on the third morning, Asad Shafiq edged to Root off Anderson to reduce Pakistan to 30 for four, and immediately after that the umpires took the players off. It was Root’s 122nd catch in Tests, moving him into second place behind Alastair Cook in England’s all-time list. A further rain interruption meant lunch was taken at 41 for four. After the break, a genuinely quick, 90mph-plus spell from Archer had Azhar Ali and Fawad struggling, but it was Dom Bess who struck to remove the latter for 21.


Azhar, under so much pressure, passed 6000 runs in Test cricket (average 42.26, 16 hundreds) when he reached 44, and soon after reached his half-century in 137 balls. Well set, he accelerated afterwards and was 82 not out at tea, with the score on 158 for five. His partnership with Rizwan passed a hundred in 167 balls as the pair took the attack to England bowlers. Rizwan went to fifty in 103 balls, hitting Bess for six over long off. Then Azhar completed his 17th Test century in 205 balls, a superb effort.


Finally, Woakes made the breakthrough as Rizwan was taken down the leg side by Buttler for 53, exposing the tail. Soon after the new ball became available with the score on 236 for six, and the end came quickly. Yasir had played a few shots, but Broad found the edge with one that reared through to Root. Shaheen was brilliantly caught by Buttler as he flicked one off his hip from Broad, who could barely believe what he’d seen.


Then came a comedy of errors off Anderson, who had one dropped by Burns in the slips, and two balls later Crawley dropped an easier one; it seemed his fifth wicket was never coming. It got worse in the next over when Broad dropped the easiest of the lot at mid on, only to throw down the stumps, leaving Abbas stranded. Azhar played some good shots to eke out a few more runs, before finally Sibley held on to one in the slips. Pakistan were all out for 273, with Azhar 141 not out. Anderson finished with figures of five for 56, his 29th five-wicket haul – only Richard Hadlee (36) now has more among fast bowlers. Just as significantly, it took him to 598 wickets, and with the follow-on enforced, he would soon have his opportunity to get to the landmark, though not on this day as the umpires brought play to a close due to bad light.


Sadly, any hopes of a victory were stymied by a combination of the weather and some stubborn resistance by Pakistan. Abid and Shan batted through to lunch, which came after the players had gone off for bad light at 12.20 and no play was possible until almost 3.45. Finally, England took their first wicket when Shan left a straight one and was LBW to Broad for 18. Abid was trapped in front by Anderson, out for 42 off 162 balls, and Anderson was one away from his landmark. Azhar and Babar saw out the rest of the day taking their side up to 100 for two off 56 overs.


On the final day, no play was possible until the players finally emerged at just after tea at 4.10, with England needing to take eight wickets. It wasn’t long before they had their first, as Anderson got one to rear up to Azhar and Root made no mistake in the slips. It was a great moment for Anderson, who had reached 600 Test wickets, the first pace bowler ever to achieve the feat. Asad joined Babar, and the pair ensured there were no alarms. Just after Babar had reached his fifty off 80 balls, Asad was caught by sub James Bracey at short square leg off the bowling of Root. Not long after, the match ended in a draw, with Pakistan on 187 for four. Crawley, unsurprisingly, was Man of the Match, with Buttler Man of the Series.


The series could have been so much more compelling, were it not for the weather, but at the end of the summer, England could look back on the continuing emergence of Sibley, Crawley and Pope, the revival of Buttler, the enduring quality of Anderson and Broad, the strength in depth of the pace attack. On the debit side, Burns had struggled against Pakistan, Root’s summer was modest, and Bess had been unable to take any game by the scruff of the neck, though his character was not in question. For the Test team it was now a question of waiting to see what would be next, with a feeling that this is a team that is on the rise.