England seal memorable win over Pakistan to end Rawalpindi runfest

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England pulled off one of their most memorable test victories on Monday when Ben Stokes and his men beat Pakistan by 74 runs in the fading light on day five of a high-scoring series opener in Rawalpindi.

Barely 10 minutes before the final session’s scheduled close of play, Jack Leach dismissed Naseem Shah to give England the win after Stokes boldly declared on Sunday to set Pakistan a target of 343.

The game had threatened to become an endless runfest on a docile track that yielded seven hundreds inside three days, and the 1,768 runs scored in the match is the third-highest aggregate in test cricket history.

But Ollie Robinson (4-36) and James Anderson (4-50) produced a reverse-swing masterclass for England to wreck Pakistan, who folded for 268.

“It’s a great place to be, and I think it’s up there with one of England’s greatest away test match wins,” Stokes said after the victory.

“Jimmy Anderson said he was feeling very emotional trying to keep himself together.

“Having a bloke who’s played nearly 180 test matches to feel like that at the end of this, I think we’ve achieved something very special this week.”

It is all the more remarkable considering England had struggled to field a team after a virus swept through their camp forcing them to rejig the playing XI.

Pakistan, who fielded four debutants in the match, could not be faulted for their efforts.

Resuming on 80-2 at the start of the final day, they lost opener Imam-ul-Haq (48) early but Mohammad Rizwan (46) and Saud Shakeel (76) counter-attacked to keep them in the game.

Even after they departed, excitement intensified as both teams entered the final session with a reasonable chance of victory — Pakistan needing 86 runs and England requiring five wickets.

Azahr Ali (40), who had retired hurt with an injured index finger on Sunday, returned to keep up the fight alongside Agha Salman (30).

But player-of-the-match Robinson eventually dismissed both in successive overs to put England on the brink of victory.

Mohammad Ali, who faced 26 balls and ended unbeaten without scoring, and Naseem, however, refused to throw in the towel.

With the light fading fast, England grew wary and both Stokes and Robinson were seen rushing back to their bowling mark to make their next deliveries.

A pack of England fielders surrounded the Pakistan tailenders, who to their credit did not flinch despite being subjected to a barrage of bouncers.

In the end, it was Leach’s left-arm spin which clinched the deal but England could not celebrate right away.

Adjudged lbw, Naseem reviewed the decision and the English players stood anxiously awaiting the outcome before erupting in joy after replays confirmed that the ball would have hit leg stump.

“We were not up to the mark,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said. “We had a golden chance to win this test, but session by session we kept losing wickets.”

The second test of the three-match series begins in Multan on Friday.

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