An ’emotional’ Ben Stokes paid tribute to his players after England completed an extraordinary victory over Pakistan in the first Test in Rawalpindi.
With the light fading in the final session of the opening Test, Jack Leach trapped Naseem Shah lbw to leave Pakistan 268 all out, 75 short of their target of 343.
‘I think it’s up there with one of England’s greatest away Test match wins,’ Stokes said.
The match threatened to meander to a dull draw after Pakistan made 579 in response to England’s astonishing 657, which they smashed in just 101 overs.
But England then crunched 264-7 in the third innings to set up a bold declaration, giving Pakistan four sessions to chase 343 on a pitch still offering little to the bowlers.
The hosts were in the driving seat at 176-3 and 259-5 but James Anderson and Ollie Robinson produced heroic spells – taking four wickets each – to put England on the verge of victory.
Mohammad Ali and Naseem Shah frustrated England for nine overs but Leech dismissed the latter to complete an all-time great win and spark wild celebrations.
Stokes added: The hard work is really hitting everyone. James Anderson said he was feeling emotional after.
‘We wanted to come here and carry on with our mantra. I have got no interest in playing for the draws, and we try to look at the positive option.
‘I have got to give the players a lot of credit for turning up under the weather.
‘I think we have played eight or nine Test matches now [under Brendon McCullum] and one thing we try and do is focus on ourselves, rather than the opposition.
‘We know we are a very exciting team and it’s a great batting surface, so it was a real opportunity for the batters.
‘We have got some broken bodies after that. It’s amazing to see the amount of enthusiasm and heart the lads showed.
‘I don’t think I have seen a group of players who have put their bodies on the lines. They are a real special group of players.’
The victory marks a brilliant start to England’s first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years.
England’s 921 runs in the Test were scored in 136.5 overs at a run-rate of 6.73. Their 506-4 on day one is a Test record.
Anderson, England’s record wicket-taker, said: ‘I feel like it’s the best win I’ve been involved in away from home and at all really.
‘That wicket was so flat and unresponsive. The way we batted allowed us to set something up. It gave us time to set something up the back end.
‘I think the satisfaction you get from getting a win on a pitch like that, the way we’ve all played it should give us confidence, we had a good summer, we knew it was going to be a challenge and we all stepped up.’
Pakistan captain Babar Azam, meanwhile, says his side wasted a ‘golden chance’ to win the Test and take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
‘We start with the bowling, but we are not up to the mark,’ he said. ‘After that, we try to up our score in the first innings.
‘I think in the second innings, we had a golden chance to win the match. But session by session we lost wickets.
‘Credit to the England team. We expected the declaration, and we had a plan. But I think we have an opportunity to win, but we lost wickets and didn’t build partnerships.’
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