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Pakistan v England: Will Ben Stokes’ team change Test cricket forever?


Rawalpindi Scoreboard
The old fashioned Rawalpindi scoreboard at the end of day one of the first test

After the run-up to this game, we should have expected a lot of runs.

Everything about England’s first Test in Pakistan for 17 years was extraordinary, so it should come as no surprise that the cricket itself turned out to be utterly incredible.

Disease ripping through the English camp meant they were unable to confirm a fit XI until two and a half hours before the scheduled start.

Had not enough players come out of the infirmary, the game would have been postponed for 24 hours. As it turned out, Pakistan could have used a day’s delay. Much more of this from England and they may want to send them away for another 17 years.

“We don’t feel we want to be held back by the narrative of how Test cricket should be played,” captain Ben Stokes said before the game.

“We are now in an era of English cricket where myself and Brendon McCullum are running red ball cricket and trying to show spectators a different way of seeing the game.”

Joe Root put it more succinctly.

“Make it, score fast and take wickets. Pretty easy,” he said.

These are not just words, England does what they preach.

They are anarchists, disruptors and innovators, potentially changing the way Test cricket is played forever.

It will take a long time to know for sure, but we could be witnessing an irreversible shift, like when Dick Fosbury flopped in the high jump, Babe Ruth regularly brought home runs to baseball, or the Netherlands played their brand of “total football.” ‘.

England doesn’t like the ‘Bazball’ label, so maybe we should look for some new terminology. Anything before Coach McCullum arrived could be BB (Before Baz) and anything after AB (Year of our Baz).

The early days of the AB era, the English Summer, felt like a wild affair that might not last long. Trent Bridge’s chase – their fifth highest in Test history – against New Zealand, and Edgbaston’s walk of 378 to beat India.

Could England do it again, away from the comforts of home? Would the fire still burn as brightly if they were reunited with McCullum after some time apart?

The answers came unequivocally on a day in Rawalpindi that was historic not only for England’s much-anticipated return to Test cricket in Pakistan, but also for the records they smashed in one of the most dazzling collective displays of batting the game has ever seen. seen.

Zak Crawley’s fastest hundred by an England opener, Harry Brook’s fastest barrel by an England batsman in an overseas Test and fastest team to 400 and 500 in a Test innings.

The close-of-play score of 506-4 is the most runs a team has ever scored on the first day of a Test – and England conceded just 75 overs. Had they gotten the full 90, their score of 6.74 would have put them at 607.

Yes, the pitch could have been dug out of the M6 ​​and Pakistan performed like a team that had not played cricket before, but downplaying England’s performance is like saying the Beatles sold a record or two.

If you want to know how different England’s effort is from the rest of the world, Australia needed 152.4 overs to compile 598-4 declared in the ongoing first Test against the West Indies in Perth.

How England have done it is by giving the players complete freedom to explore the limits of what is possible and knowing that they will not be punished if they fail.

Crawley was supported by Stokes and McCullum during a lean summer, to the point that some of McCullum’s comments seemed vaguely ridiculous.

“I’m looking at a guy like Zak and his skills are not to be a consistent cricketer. He’s not that type of player,” said McCullum.

If Crawley bats as he did on Thursday, the first of four England batters to record a hundred, McCullum’s words make perfect sense.

Ben Duckett was most likely to be remembered for tipping a pint of beer over James Anderson at a Perth nightclub. In his six years away from Test cricket, a broken hand meant he had to learn how to effectively hold a bat again.

At the end of the summer, he was brought back into the test line-up and given a second chance at the top level in Rawalpindi. Despite being one of the hardest hit by the virus, he cracked his first century.

Ollie Pope’s promotion to number three has gone so well that he now appears to be anointed as the next England captain. Even with the distraction of standing behind the stumps for the ailing Ben Foakes, he helped himself to the least flashy 90-ball hundred you’ll ever see.

The final blow came from Brook, who had a poor T20 World Cup and, with only one Test cap to his name, could have easily been brushed aside to accommodate England’s spin bowling all-rounders.

Not a little. Taking Saud Shakeel for six fours in a single, he approached the fastest barrel ever by an England batsman, missing Gilbert Jessop’s 120-year-old mark of 76 balls by just four pitches.

All this comes amid the glorious chaos sweeping through Pakistan.

Even without the confusion caused by the illness in the English camp, the build-up to the first test included the following: the Sky commentary team accidentally drove the TMS bus, TMS producer Tim Peach received a rather large electric shock when he tried the broadcast equipment, goalscorer Andy Zaltzman’s laptop charger smoldering with smoke and Vic Marks lunching to Rawalpindi Stadium in his hat, like a spinning Paddington Bear.

England, the main chaos makers, may also be just getting started.

Ben Stokes has already moved to 34 not off 15 balls, while Liam Livingstone, one of the world’s top white-ball destroyers, and Will Jacks, owner of a century at The Hundred, are yet to come.

“Hopefully we can go again tomorrow, get a big one and score a thousand,” Crawley joked.

This is truly a new way to play Test Cricket.

Embrace the chaos.




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