Pakistan tour of England 2020; England vs Pakistan, third Test at Ageas Bowl, day 5; Pakistan 273 (Azhar 141, Rizwan 53, Anderson 5-56) and 187 for 4 (Babar 63*) drew with England 583 for 8 declared (Crawley 267, Buttler 152)
More than the outcome of the game, which was on expected lines after Pakistan took the match into the fifth day, it is a moment of glory that will ensure that Day 5 remains forever green in public memory and cricketing lore.
James Anderson, England’s bowling spearhead, capped his glorious 17-year career with the proverbial crowning moment, picking up his 600th Test scalp. With the remarkable feat, he became the first quick bowler in the history of Test cricket to summit Mount 600.
It put him in an elite club featuring Lankan legend Muttiah Muralidharan, Australian spin king Shane Warne and our very own leg-spin great Anil Kumble.
The career milestone not only put the 38-year-old among the pantheon of greats but also raised his status in the English dressing room to that of a giant who strode and conquered cricketing fields with his insatiable hunger for wickets and unstoppable, age-defying run to glory.
Coming back to the fifth day’s play, there wasn’t much left in the game after Pakistan finished Day 4 at 100/2. With the morning session lost to the elements, yet again, all that was left was purely of academic and statistical interest.
Whatever hopes England might have harboured of forcing a result on the final day were washed out by rain in the opening hours.
When play finally got underway post lunch, England skipper Joe Root promptly handed the ball to Anderson, who could have got his 600th victim on Day 4 itself had keeper Jos Buttler not grassed a fairly regulation offering by Pakistan opener Shan Masood.
Anderson kept plugging away on a good length and was finally rewarded when Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali, who scored a defiant ton in the first innings, edged one to Root at first slip. The veteran erupted in joy as his jubilant teammates huddled around him. He held the ball aloft for the world to see and applaud his incredible feat.
That was easily the only highlight from the day’s play as the players, thereafter, merely went through their motions with little intent to either score runs or take wickets. With the game meandering to a stalemate, the regular bowlers got a breather as the skipper brought himself on along with fellow part-timer Dom Sibley.
With off-spinner Dom Bess and the part-timers in operation, there were easy runs for the taking and Pakistan vice-captain Babar Azam duly obliged with some sweet hits to the fence. He soon brought up his fifty, his second of the series.
Asad Shafique, his partner at the crease, looked to be finally answering his critics when, on 21, he fell lobbing a catch off Root to the short leg fielder.
Veteran Fawad Alam, who hasn’t been able mark his comeback with success in two previous innings, joined Babar at the crease. The pair took the score to 187 before the players finally decided to shake hands. While the Pakistan vice-captain finished unbeaten on 62, Alam ended the series unbeaten on nought.
While England recorded another home series win, closing the gap further on India and Australia who currently sit first and second in the ICC Test Championship points table, Pakistan were left musing on what might have been. They had the first Test in their grasp but let it slip after England, chasing 277, escaped to a win from a precarious 117/5.
The latest overseas series loss will not only raise question marks on the current coaching set-up, which has big names in Misbah-ul-Haq, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed and Younis Khan, but the think-tank will also be left searching for answers to their perennial woes in overseas Tests.