3rd Test, Karachi, December 17 - 20, 2022, England tour of Pakistan
304 & 216
(T:167) 354 & 170/2

England won by 8 wickets

Player Of The Match
Player Of The Series
468 runs

Rehan Ahmed to make history as England gun for series clean-sweep

Azhar Ali hopes for farewell appearance as Pakistan seek to end series on a high

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Babar Azam, Ben Stokes and Sarfaraz Ahmed at the teams' photo-call  •  Getty Images

Babar Azam, Ben Stokes and Sarfaraz Ahmed at the teams' photo-call  •  Getty Images

Big Picture

England have already pulled off one race against the setting sun on this tour, thanks to their epic victory in the first Test in Rawalpindi, but this week they are back at the scene of the most iconic heist of them all. Twenty-two years, almost to the week, have elapsed since they last played a Test in Karachi … since Graham Thorpe scuffed the winning runs down to fine leg with darkness already enveloping the National Stadium and with Pakistan's fielders powerless to intervene as the ball sped past them through the gloom.
On the face of it, the circumstances of this rematch lack the urgency that was on show for Nasser Hussain and his men back then, with England already 2-0 up in the series and entitled to coast through to Christmas after the exertions they've already put in. But that's not really the mindset of Ben Stokes and his merry men. They've been creating their own intensity since the start of this remarkable run back in June - eight wins in nine Tests now, and each one of them a humdinger - and having lived up to their stated intention to play for a result come what may, we'd best buckle up and see what variation on the theme they serve up this time.
It takes two to tango, of course, and Pakistan will still be smarting from the narrowness of their losses in both games - particularly at Multan, when a marginal umpiring decision went against Saud Shakeel on the fourth afternoon, at precisely the moment he might have been primed to make a considerable name for himself. But on both occasions, the thrill of Pakistan's chase came down to the ingeniously weighted targets that Stokes had been willing to dangle - through a bold declaration at Rawalpindi, then through what was effectively an auto-completed second innings at Multan, where England's loss of five wickets for 19 runs seemed to matter less than the desire to keep their quarry interested in a nominal target of 355.
It's only ingenious if it works, of course - and until Mark Wood got busy on that fourth afternoon, there was maybe just a whiff of hubris in the air. And yet, there's really no way to quibble with England's current methodology; a living, breathing embodiment of the late, great Shane Warne's most enduring mantra, that you've got to be prepared to lose to win. In taking the draw off the table, they've backed their matchwinners to be precisely that, and from the tireless displays of the seamers to the precocious stylings of Harry Brook, they've found an abundance of heroes.
And who knows, maybe this week, there will be another special tale to be related. By the close of day one in Multan, with the mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed already seven wickets to the good, and Pakistan seemingly well set in reply, there was reason for England to regret not blooding their teenaged leggie, Rehan Ahmed. And though the weapons at Stokes' disposal proved more than sufficient in the end, they've decided, in keeping with their zeitgeist, not to duck the opportunity a second time.
Ahmed's impending debut offers a fascinating insight into this team's current mindset. On the one hand, it's bold to the point of impetuous - the boy is barely 18, and has played the grand total of three first-class matches - but on the other, it's a perfectly calculated risk. As Rob Key related in the lead-up to the series, the plan had always been to add him to the tour, but without fanfare - so as not to drench the moment in hype - and, crucially, not before Brendon McCullum had had a chance to assess his character up close and in person.
And it seems that McCullum liked what he saw - Ahmed's thwack-happy innings of 26 from 10 balls in the warm-up match in Abu Dhabi was every bit as revealing as the eight expensive and wicketless overs that preceded it. With full licence to rip his variations, and no doubt armed to the teeth with attacking fielders, it's unlikely to be dull viewing when his big moment finally comes. But spare a thought, when it does, for the luckless Matt Parkinson, a permanent passenger in the previous England regime, and a man who probably ought to have made his own debut in similar circumstances on the tour of the Caribbean in the spring. The timidity of his permanent non-selection, compared to this audacious call-up now, epitomises the sea-change in outlook from within the England dressing-room. But at least Parkinson will always have his concussion substitution at Lord's.
England's carefree mindset even extended to a six-hitting competition on the eve of the Test - a ploy, Stokes explained, to keep the players' minds fresh rather than have them counting down the days until their flight home - a typically candid admission from a man who's placed mental wellbeing at the forefront of his leadership. The downside for Stokes is that he lost out to none other than his coach, McCullum, and as a forfeit, will have the pleasure of waiting on Brook at the team's pre-match dinner.
After two bruising losses, however, Pakistan may be lacking a similar degree of levity in their camp.

Form guide

Pakistan LLLWL (last five Tests, most recent first)
England WWWWL

In the spotlight

There are no guarantees that he'll get to bow out on his own terms, with Pakistan's captain Babar Azam declining to name a team before the toss, but Azhar Ali will not be seen again in Pakistan colours after the Karachi Test, after announcing his impending retirement at the age of 37. He is destined to fall short of 100 Tests (assuming he plays, this will be his 97th) but he nudged past 7000 Test runs during the Australia series in March, to cement his place at No. 5 on his country's all-time run-making charts. Azhar did not play in Multan after a disappointing display at Rawalpindi - his haul of 67 runs across two innings meant he was the only member of the top three on either team to miss out on a hundred - and was hampered by a finger injury as Pakistan failed to bat out for a draw on the final day. Nevertheless, his place in the record books is secure after a 12-year international career that reached a personal peak with his triple-century against West Indies in Dubai in 2016.
A fast-tracked Test debut that's been seven years in the making. Such are the curious contradictions that have gone into Rehan Ahmed's arrival, at 18 years and 126 days, as England's youngest Test cricketer of all time. Ahmed first announced himself to this batch of players at Lord's in 2016, when he was summoned as a net bowler to help England combat the legspin of Yasir Shah, and ended up dismissing Ben Stokes among other notable victims. And now he's about to cap a breakthrough 2022, one that began with a starring role in England's run to the Under-19 World Cup final in Antigua, and has also taken in a maiden first-class century and five-wicket haul for Leicestershire, and a taste of the Hundred with Southern Brave. "I'm struggling to work out what he is, whether he's a batter or a legspinner, which is I guess good, because it shows how much talent he's got," Stokes said on the eve of the match. And if that's not the definition of a mystery spinner, then I'm not sure what is.

Team news

Assuming Pakistan are feeling sufficiently sentimental, Azhar will return to play his swansong Test, probably in place of Salman Ali Agha, whose unbeaten 20 in the second innings at Multan wasn't enough to save the day for his side. Imam-ul-Haq is the other expected absentee, after struggling with a hamstring injury during his second-innings fifty last time out. Shan Masood is a ready-made replacement
Pakistan: (possible) 1 Shan Masood, 2 Abdullah Shafique, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Zahid Mahmood / Mohammad Wasim Jnr, 10 Mohammad Ali, 11 Abrar Ahmed
Two changes for England as they shuffle the pack after sealing the series in Multan. Ben Foakes returns in place of Will Jacks - the man who stepped in at the last minute in Rawalpindi when Foakes failed to recover from illness - meaning that Ollie Pope relinquishes the gloves that he donned with some distinction in the first two Tests. And to add to England's slow-bowling options in Jacks' absence, Ahmed makes his debut as a legspinning allrounder - although disappointingly for fans of sporting trivia, he will not be sharing the stage with the man who had already claimed 28 Test wickets before he was even born. James Anderson will be resting his 40-year-old bones for this one, after picking up eight more victims at 18.50 in the first two games.
England: 1 Zak Crawley, 2 Ben Duckett, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Ben Stokes (capt), 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Rehan Ahmed, 9 Ollie Robinson, 10 Jack Leach, 11 Mark Wood.

Pitch and conditions

Another dry surface is in store in Karachi, liable to offer turn for the spinners but not a lot of bounce - not unlike the pitch that was served up for Australia's visit in March, although England are unlikely to spend the best part of two days making 550, as was the case on that occasion.

Stats and trivia

  • Pakistan have lost just twice in 44 matches at Karachi's National Stadium, dating back to 1955. England famously pipped them in the dark in 2000, while South Africa also won by 160 runs in 2007, with Jacques Kallis making a century in each innings.
  • Pakistan have never yet been whitewashed in a home Test series, and have only lost two Tests on home soil in four previous series - once against Australia (1959), twice against Sri Lanka (1995 and 2000) and most recently against India (2004).
  • After a slow start in Australia and West Indies, England are pushing for their ninth win of the calendar year 2022, which would be their joint-second most of all time - alongside 2010 and behind only their 11 wins from 13 matches in 2004.
  • Quotes

    "It's a dry wicket, and a typical Karachi wicket. The weather's a bit hot too, so we expect it will take spin. We've dominated the past few Test matches. Both Tests were in our hands but we couldn't finish them off."
    Babar Azam issues a rallying cry
    "From past experiences on away tours and coming to the end of them, certainly for myself, it feels like you're counting the days down until you get home. I wanted to make sure we didn't feel like that. I think a big part of what we've done, especially out here, is we've enjoyed every moment that we've spent together."
    Ben Stokes explains the logic behind the team's six-hitting jape in training

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

    AskESPNcricinfo Logo
    Instant answers to T20 questions
    England Innings
    <1 / 3>
    ICC World Test Championship