England have made history by beating Pakistan in the second test in Multan.
Not only is it only the second time they have won a series against Pakistan away from home, but, in the space of two matches, they have doubled the number of victories achieved in test match cricket on Pakistani soil.
Moreover, under the joint leadership of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendan McCullum, they have achieved those wins playing the brand of aggressive cricket that has become known as “Bazball.”
Those who doubted that this approach could thrive outside of English conditions, have been proved emphatically wrong.
Both wins were achieved in difficult conditions.
Although England set all sorts of batting records on the first day of the first test in Rawalpindi, taking 20 wickets on the surface proved to be a major challenge and Pakistan came within ten minutes of saving the match.
That England eventually won the match by 74 runs was almost entirely down to their approach, because the pitch offered them no help.
In fact, the match referee Andy Pycroft has now labelled the pitch as below average in his official report, and the venue is in danger of losing its international status.
For the second test, though in Multan, Pakistan wanted a surface that turned, and gave a debut to leg spinner Abrar Ahmed, a style of bowling against which they have traditionally struggled. Ahmed had a fine maiden game for his country, taking 11 wickets in the match.
However, England still batted positively, scoring their runs quickly, meaning that they left themselves enough time left in the game to bowl their opponents out twice.
The tour is taking place amidst unprecedented security, but, despite that, there was still gunfire heard near the team hotel before the start of the second Test. Long gone are the days when a touring team in Pakistan were free to wander around at their will.
Stokes the leader
There were concerns about whether the burden of captaincy would inhibit Stokes’ natural game, but the evidence so far seems to suggest it has given him an extra dimension, and that he relishes the responsibility that goes with the job.
He already had the respect of his team-mates before taking up his new role, but now they are fully behind him in every respect, with fast bowler Mark Wood saying ‘he would run through a brick wall” for his Durham team mate.
No fear of failure
One of the best things that the Stokes-McCullum partnership has done is remove the fear of failure from the England team. They are aware that there will be some games where their aggressive approach may backfire, and are prepared to accept the occasional loss in the wider interest of making test cricket entertaining again.
It means that players can afford to take risks with bat and ball knowing they will not be criticised for doing so.
More broadly, with test cricket around the world struggling to attract an audience, England may just have rejuvenated the format, even though neither of the two protagonists were born in the country.
McCullum is a New Zealander, and Stokes was born and raised there, until his family moved to England when he was 12 years old after his father was appointed head coach of Workington Town rugby league club.
Good news for India
Pakistan’s defeat to England in this series is good news for India, because it effectively eliminates from the equation one of their rivals for a place in the World Test Championship final next year.
They began the series almost level on points with India, but they have now dropped to sixth in the standings and are out of contention.
One Test to go
There is still one test to go, starting in Karachi on December 17th, and England are chasing another piece of history. No team has ever won all three tests against Pakistan in their own backyard.
That is clearly a record that the home side will be desperate to preserve.
England will not compromise their principles, however, and will go all out to win this match from the very first ball.
Are other international teams ready to adopt their blueprint?
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