At The Oval, August 11-14. Pakistan won by ten wickets. Pakistan 4pts. Toss: England. Test debut: Iftikhar Ahmed.
All series long he had hopped, skipped and fidgeted. He had crouched much lower than during his last series in England, a decade earlier - a result of playing almost exclusively since then on low, slow surfaces. To greet each ball he would not so much rise up as jump at it, as if from behind a sofa, then move across to cover for that ancient Pakistani failing in England: the edge to slip. As a result, the back leg seemed to develop a mind of its own, sometimes flamingoing up, more often slipping away. There was no balance. It wasn't pretty, but neither was it entirely ugly.
Younis Khan has always been a twitchy presence, his odd movements dictated by an unusually long reach and torso. But, officially aged 38 (unofficially, he was probably over 40), he had raised questions by failing in the first three Tests. In truth, his failures were relative, with four scores between 25 and 33. And he was getting out carelessly: twice caught down leg, once to midwicket, once on the slog.
The glitches were mental as much as technical. And, like the finest, he knew his time would come - that day when body, feet, hands and mind would achieve harmony. Here, with Pakistan needing a win to square a series they had led less than a month earlier, Younis stood a little taller and recalibrated his point of impact with the ball, letting it come to him further back in the crease. There had been input from Mickey Arthur and Grant Flower, coach and batting coach as well as a surprise phone call from former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin, but Younis has always been an autodidactic kind of guy The result, an incandescent 218 by the third afternoon, was nothing less than his fierce will emerging from a personal swamp. It contained all the qualities for which he is renowned - punches and drives in the arc between the umpire and point, dominance of the spinner - but there were lesser-seen gems too, including some flashing cuts.
Younis also batted wonderfully with the tail. He had 128 when Sarfraz Ahmed fell (for another important forty), at which point Pakistan were 397 for seven in reply to England's 328. Yet with care, authority and trust, he helped add 145 to the team total, and 90 to his own. He was intelligent, too: on the third afternoon, facing a deep-set field, he dinked Moeen Ali to midwicket with exactly the right force to fetch him two. The next ball went into the stands beyond wide long-on to bring up his sixth double-century, equalling Javed Miandad's Pakistan record. And with it came a reminder of Younis's capacity to go big: this was his 32nd Test hundred to set against 30 fifties (and only one dismissal in the nineties). It was among the very best conversion rates of any era.
The key partnership, however, had come on the second day with Asad Shafiq, who should, in time, take over as Pakistan's best batsman. He had looked impressive without setting the series alight, and a pair at Edgbaston had been dispiriting. But Pakistan not merely kept faith: they moved him up the order, having brought in Iftikhar Ahmed for opener Mohammad Hafeez. So often it had been Younis guiding a younger player through a partnership. But here the roles were neatly reversed: it was Shafiq's presence that seemed to calm Younis at the start of a 150-run stand. England had unsettled Shafiq with inswing, but he put himself right. It was not flawless, and Anderson missed a tough catch at third slip off Woakes when he had only seven. But it was everything a Shafiq innings should be: aesthetically pleasing, nimble-footed, runs everywhere, all wrapped up in a charming discretion.
Tough as the Anderson miss was, it summed up England's catching throughout the series, and their sloppiness in this Test. Having won the toss, and armed with a 2-1 lead, their dismissal inside 77 overs was a waste - not that it necessarily felt that way at the time. Rather, the sense was that Pakistan had let England off the hook, after a mixture of poor shots and energetic bowling from Wahab Riaz - back in the side at the expense of Rahat Ali - had them 74 for four before lunch.
Briefly, and for perhaps the only time all summer, the mood had threatened to turn sour. In the seventh over, Hales clipped Mohammad Amir to square leg, where Yasir Shah dived forward and claimed a low catch. Replays were blurry, but the soft signal had been out, and - with no contrary evidence available - Hales had to go. Lip-readers deciphered obscenities, but worse was to come: Hales took his grievance to TV official Joel Wilson's room, earning himself a £1,500 fine and the derision of social media. Out in the middle, his team-mates could have been in even deeper strife. Bairstow, on 13, was caught at point shortly after lunch off a Wahab no-ball. And, after Azhar Ali held Ballance at third slip off Wahab to make it 110 for five, he dropped Moeen Ali, on nine, off the unfortunate Amir. Much in the manner of their second-innings partnership at Edgbaston, the pair cashed in, adding a bristling 93. Bristling is what Bairstow does best anyway, in attack or defence, and he had done it all summer. But Moeen's was the innings that made England's day.
He had begun inauspiciously, in the middle of a brutal Wahab spell, his helmet pinged so hard that the first ball he faced rebounded to backward point. Three deliveries later he flicked Wahab through square leg almost as cleanly as he had been hit. Thus began not an innings but a demonstration, of a liquid exquisiteness of sporting movement more commonly associated with tennis star Roger Federer - whips here, lashes there, the entire operation orchestrated by soft and powerful wrists. It was the best of his three Test hundreds. After adding 79 with Woakes, Moeen was last out, hooking to deep square leg to give Sohail Khan a second five-for in two Tests, a pleasant surprise given how exhausted he had looked at Edgbaston.
Once Pakistan had opened up a lead of 214, the only question was how they would exploit it. At Edgbaston, where their first-innings advantage had been 103, they bowled as if they were the team in arrears, while their opening spells through the series had mixed class with dross. Finally, they got it right. Amir began with a maiden for the first time all summer, Sohail produced another, and the mood was set. After nine overs, England had only nine runs; in the tenth, Wahab's first, Cook was caught at slip.
It was left to Yasir to work a way to victory. After Lord's, he had been muted. But at The Oval he had a surface to work with, one with grip and life. Sure enough, he emerged a different beast, taking care of England's top order with balls that did not spin much, but zipped off the pitch. There was resistance, marshalled inevitably by Bairstow, but for such moments exist bowlers like Wahab. England were close to level, with four wickets in hand, when - troubled by no-balls and warnings for running on the pitch - he breezed in for a new spell.
Almost immediately he ran out Woakes with a superb piece of fielding off his own bowling, then dismissed Bairstow next ball. A few overs later he was out of the attack for transgressing again. It didn't matter: he had done his job. Pakistan needed only 40, and not long after tea Azhar launched Moeen over long-on, with one stroke winning the Test, levelling the series, and taking his team to the brink of the No. 1 ranking. It was a euphoric moment, arriving on the 69th anniversary of the founding of the country, and lifting spirits back home after a terrorist attack in Quetta. The result also came as a tribute to Hanif Mohammad, who had played a part in their grandest triumph, at The Oval in 1954, and who died during this Test. For Pakistanis everywhere, this game took its place in the pantheon.
Man of the Match: Younis Khan.