Skipper Ben Stokes hailed England’s nail-biting victory in the first Test against Pakistan Monday as “one of the best” of his career — particularly given the state of the lifeless Rawalpindi pitch.
With just minutes to spare in dying light after five days of enthralling cricket, England finally halted a heroic last stand by Pakistan’s tailenders to win the first Test by 74 runs.
It was only the third time England won a Test in Pakistan, although they haven’t visited since 2005 because of security issues.
“To be able to get a result on this type of wicket is mind-blowing,” Stokes said ahead of the second Test starting in Multan on Friday.
“I think it’s probably one of the best. The effort that everyone has managed to put in this whole week is just incredible.”
England has “Bazball” to thank for their victory — the free-wheeling brand of cricket coined from the nickname of new head coach Brendon “Baz” McCullum, a New Zealander.
McCullum was an aggressive batter in his playing days — he holds the record for the fastest individual Test century — and under him, and skipper Stokes, the English have brought one-day cricket to the five-day game.
Records tumbled in Rawalpindi with England becoming the only team in history to score 500 runs on the first day of a Test — courtesy of four individual centuries, another record.
Overall, some 1,768 runs were scored in the match — the third-highest aggregate since Test cricket began.
Still, Pakistan did well to peg back England’s daunting 657-run first-innings total to trail by just 78 runs.
England again turned on the fireworks in their second innings before a bold Stokes declaration left Pakistan seeking 343 runs for victory.
For a while, it looked as if the home team would do it — but a devastating last session saw England shine as the light dimmed for a famous victory.
“We’re pretty lost for words,” said Stokes, who now has seven wins in the last eight Tests.
“I feel very honoured and feel a very privileged position to be able to lead these guys.
“Jimmy Anderson was saying he felt a bit emotional, so having a bloke with near enough 180 Test matches (176) feeling like that at the end of this is proof that we’ve achieved something very special.”
Stokes suggested “Bazball” was here to stay.
“Test cricket is generally exciting when England are playing,” he said. “That’s what we set out to do from day one.”
And he praised the fighting spirit of his players in dealing with a mystery virus that threatened the start of the first Test.
“The way in which the lads just dealt with it and just cracked on was a credit to them as individuals and as a team,” he said.
Stokes also had praise for the home crowd — delighted to see England visit at last, but disappointed not to win.
“I’m not going to lie, the reception that we got walking off the field as winners in Pakistan was very special,” he said.