Saturday 19 September, 2020

Buttler, Woakes lead England to 3-wicket win over Pakistan

Pakistan's Naseem Shah, right, reacts as England's Chris Woakes, left, runs between the wickets to score during the fourth day of the first cricket Test at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (Lee Smith/Pool via AP).

Pakistan's Naseem Shah, right, reacts as England's Chris Woakes, left, runs between the wickets to score during the fourth day of the first cricket Test at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020. (Lee Smith/Pool via AP).

Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes led a remarkable comeback for England in a three-wicket victory over Pakistan in the first Test on Saturday.

The pair went on the counter-attack at the fall of the fifth wicket in England's second innings and shared a sixth-wicket stand of 139 on day 4 at Old Trafford. No fans were present for the exciting finale due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Buttler was out for 75 while Woakes hit the winning runs and was undefeated on 84 as England finished on 277-7 for their 10th highest successful Test run chase.

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah (4-99) had put Pakistan in pole position with two wickets as England, chasing a target of 277 for victory, slipped from 86-1 to 117-5 in their second innings.

Ollie Pope (7) was the fifth man out to a remarkable delivery from left-armer Shaheen Afridi, which flew off the pitch. As Pope flinched in surprise, the ball clattered into his glove and lobbed high towards Shadab Khan coming in from gully.

That dismissal brought Buttler and Woakes together and the game increasingly swung in England's favour.

Wicketkeeper Buttler more than made up for his poor match performance behind the stumps.

“I’m quite proud, if I take those chances (with the gloves) we’d have won two hours ago,” Buttler told Sky Sports. “I’m very aware I didn’t keep well, I missed some chances and at this level you can’t afford to do that, no matter how many runs you score.

“Thoughts go through your head that if I don’t score any runs I’ve maybe played my last game. But you have to shut those out and go and play your game.”

When Buttler was out leg before wicket to Yasir, England only needed 21 runs to win.

Woakes, selected as a seamer, had shown his batting skills with a superb cover drive to bring up his half-century on an unpredictable wicket. Dom Bess (0 not out) was with Woakes at the end.

Earlier, Pakistan resumed on 137-8 and added a quickfire 32 runs before being bowled out for 169.

Broad finished with figures of 3-37, taking his tally to six in the match, and there were also two wickets apiece for Woakes and Stokes, who both had figures of 2-11.

Pakistan scored 326 in their first innings before dismissing England for 219.

The second of three Tests starts Thursday at Southampton.

Woakes has been in great form with the ball all summer but his innings, which included 10 fours, saw him turn match-winner with his highest score in more than two years.

Buttler owed a debt to his team after three costly misses behind the stumps in the first innings and paid with a superb counter-attacking innings that made good on the selectors’ ongoing faith.

Only once before has a higher fourth-innings score won a Test in Manchester, Michael Vaughan’s England against New Zealand in 2008.

A lunch score of 55-1 represented solid progress, Rory Burns the man to go to a fractional lbw decision in Mohammad Abbas’ favour, with Dom Sibley going about his business methodically and Joe Root carefully negotiating a much-anticipated first spell from Yasir.

The steady accumulation continued in the afternoon until Sibley broke ranks, swinging hard when Yasir tossed one up to the stumps and sending to slip. After 114 balls and 36 tough runs it was a soft end.

Having broken the 64-run stand, Pakistan went on the charge as England’s middle-order crumbled in taxing conditions. Root gave it away on 42, shaping to steer Naseem Shah to his favourite outlet at third man but fending a rising delivery to Babar Azam.

Ben Stokes was beaten by lavish bounce from Yasir, with a light brush of the glove on the way through to Mohammad Rizwan.

After Pope's dismissal, with four wickets tumbling for 31 runs, the winning line now seemed distant and the pitch wholly unreliable.

But Buttler and Woakes put on exactly 50 in just 49 balls before tea. Both men reached half-centuries in the 63rd over, Butter marginally quicker in 55 balls.

Pakistan slowed the rate by pushing out the field but the batsmen shifted accordingly, ticking off the century stand in little more than 20 overs then dragging the required runs under 50.

Pakistan burned their last two reviews in the space of eight balls before a slog-swept six from Buttler brought the winning line ever closer.

Yasir guaranteed England did not get there without a scare, winning another close call against Buttler and then seeing off Broad too, but Woakes remained.

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