Ben Stokes was in no doubt about the magnitude of England’s latest mind-boggling achievement after a tense, stomach-churning 26-run win in the second Test in Multan.
Defending 355 on a dusty, lifeless surface, the tourists had begun to fear a third Test decider in Karachi may be on the cards as Pakistan approached lunch on the fourth day five wickets down and with 65 runs more required.
But a game-breaking three-wicket burst from Mark Wood either side of the interval set the tourists on course for victory and with it an unassailable 2-0 lead. As a result, this first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years will go down as a resounding triumph.
Stokes said: “Not for one minute are we going to think, nah, it’s just another Test series win. Beating Pakistan in Pakistan is massive. We know what we’ve achieved, we know that it’s a very special thing in English cricket to come here and win.”
On Wood, whose removals of Mohammad Nawaz and Saud Shakeel broke an 80-run stand to set up the victory charge, Stokes said: “I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to be facing bouncers at 90mph, even if I had faced as many balls as those two. That’s what we picked him for – to come in and change the game.”
Though the win continues England’s impressive rise from the ashes of last winter’s harrowing defeats in Australia and the Caribbean – this an eighth win in nine since Stokes replaced Joe Root as captain – there was controversy on the deciding day.
The pivotal wicket of Saud for a battling 94 in a collapse of five for 38 by the home side split opinion, many fancying the ball had touched the grass as the wicketkeeper, Ollie Pope, caught it low to his right. Waqar Younis, on commentary, called it “a shocking decision.”
Stokes, struggling with nausea during his press conference, pointed to “a few decisions where stuff like that has gone against us”, while Babar Azam, his opposite number, was magnanimous despite disagreeing with the TV umpire, Joel Wilson.
Babar said: “We felt from outside that the ball had touched the ground but as a professional, you have to follow the umpire’s decision.
“We were not up to the mark in the first innings and had a couple of soft dismissals. We fought back in the second innings, but unfortunately, we could not finish it.”
As well as his delight at Wood, Stokes was keen to lavish praise on Harry Brook after the 23-year-old Yorkshire batter’s 108 in the second innings. Brook has two centuries in his first three Tests and Stokes sees similarity with an Indian great of the game. “That performance was just phenomenal,” he said. “[Brook] is one of those rare players that you look across all formats and you can just see him being successful everywhere.
“It’s a massive shout, but Virat Kohli is one of those guys where his technique is just so simple and works everywhere. The pressure that he puts back onto opposition is exactly what we’re about.”