At Lord's, July 14-17. Pakistan won by 75 runs. Pakistan 4pts. Toss: Pakistan. Test debut: J. T. Ball.
The Lord's hum is a civilised affair, the distilled hubbub of 30,000 contented souls accepting the offer of another glass of white, rustling a copy of The Daily Telegraph, apologising to a neighbour who knocks their cheese straw to the ground - maybe even chatting about the cricket. But at intervals on the Friday and Sunday of a cracking Test, the hum was pierced by something discordant: an elemental howl, as though a domestic animal was being slaughtered. But the slaughter was of home batsmen, and the cry the unique celebration of Yasir Shah, the latest in a long line of wrist-spinners to get inside English heads (and in this instance eardrums).
If the Yasir yell - perhaps the Shah shriek - proved the soundtrack to a deserved Pakistan victory, its rasp was almost the only dissonant note of a fizzing encounter. With rain dampening the early summer, and controversy so often dogging England-Pakistan Tests, it was a relief that the atmosphere, meteorological and metaphorical, was benign. The standard of cricket was reassuringly high, and the crowd lapped up the first genuinely competitive home Test for well over a year. No wonder Lord's was abuzz.
England made two changes from the side who had enjoyed the better of a rainy draw five weeks earlier (Lord's was hosting successive Tests for the first time in 104 years after the Sri Lankan series had been rejigged to give more time for the redevelopment of the Warner Stand). Nick Compton had jumped before he was pushed, while neither Ben Stokes, who had undergone knee surgery in May, nor Jimmy Anderson, who had hurt his shoulder, was deemed fit. Anderson did not agree, and made clear his disgruntlement at being left out. In came Ballance, more on reputation as a scrapper than on county form, and - in a happy moment for the school of nominative determinism - Nottinghamshire's young seamer Jake Ball, nephew of former England wicketkeeper Bruce French, who presented him with his cap.
As the Test began, new prime minister Theresa May was finalising her Brexit cabinet, determining how best to deploy figures who had contributed to the downfall of her predecessor, David Cameron. There were parallels at Lord's, where Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq had to handle the return of Mohammad Amir, who had played a central role in one of cricket's darkest episodes.
After delivering a couple of cricket's most notorious no-balls, Amir had done time behind bars, as well as most of a five-year ban, and some colleagues had opposed his rehabilitation, while Cook said anyone now convicted of corruption should never play again. As it turned out, Amir's first Test, six years after his downfall, was at the scene of the crime.
His entrance would have to wait, however: Misbah won his seventh toss in a row, and chose to bat. There was little in the strip for England's opening bowlers who, despite their county connection, failed to tie Pakistan up in Notts. But Woakes did find swing - initially away from the right-handers, then in as well - to claim two wickets. Every now and again Ball beat bat and hit pad, and eventually his yorker did for Azhar Ali, the first of many victims for the inbuilt bias of the DRS: in favour of the on-field umpire, whenever the decision was borderline. The victim of ultra-marginal calls in both innings, Azhar was especially unlucky.
His downfall left Pakistan teetering at 77 for three, their grand old men together. Despite a combined 80 years or more, Younis Khan and Misbah had only one Lord's Test between them - by Younis back in 2001. Their techniques were different: Younis's shots were accompanied by an eccentric flourish of the back leg, while Misbah's cushiony hands mitigated any lateral movement, especially from Woakes. Yet it was an edge off Finn that had Misbah's heart in his mouth, Root fluffing a tough but catchable chance at second slip. Younis perished when a flick off his toes fetched up at midwicket and, at 134 for four, Pakistan could easily have flumped for under 200. As so often, much rested on
With a deftness and athleticism belying his years, he set about resurrecting the innings in the company of the resolute Asad Shafiq, a favourite ally: the 148 they added made them the first fifth-wicket pair to compile seven century stands in Tests. Cook, still scarred by Misbah's dismantling of English slow bowling in late 2015, used Moeen Ali sparingly. One delicious over, costing 16, explained why: defended, reverse-swept, swept; defended, reverse-swept, swept. The immaculate execution showed Misbah as contemptuous of spin
as Henry VIII of wives.
Soon afterwards, he became the oldest to score a Test century for 82 years - and the oldest Test captain ever to do so. And he celebrated, not with a roar, but a salute and ten press-ups, a nod to the hard work put in with the Pakistan army (as well as the remarkable fitness of a 42-year-old). Grizzled hacks in the media centre burst into laughter. Shafiq departed to the new ball, caught in two minds by a Woakes outswinger, and then, from the last delivery of the day, nightwatchman Rahat Ali provoked more hilarity when an almighty off-side heave cannoned into the stumps.
Next morning brought an exquisite one-two from Woakes, who followed a sizzling awayswinger with one that came back in to Wahab Riaz. Enter Amir. His reception was hard to gauge, since the crowd were still cheering Woakes's six-for. There was no doubt, though, that from 282 for four on a blameless pitch, a total of 339 was disappointing. If there was no wag from the Pakistan tail, there were a couple in the crowd who amused themselves (and few others) with cries of "No-ball!" when Amir ran in from the Pavilion End, an attempt at humour as feeble as it was foreseeable. Hales fell quickly to Rahat, least celebrated of Pakistan's left-arm troika, while Cook was twice dropped off Amir: on
22 by Mohammad Hafeez at slip, then a simpler chance behind the wicket on 55. Root, who had looked more comfortable than an old shoe, decided to give Yasir the boot. A miscued slog-sweep later, England were 118 for two, Yasir poised to run riot in the middle order. Vince vanished like an English summer - three fine shots and a dismissal - Ballance botched a forward defensive, Bairstow blithely went back to cut a ball that was too full, and Moeen missed a sweep. Sandwiched in the middle of Yasir's full-throated five was one for Amir, who eventually removed Cook for 81, an innings uncharacteristic both in speed (a 60-ball half-century was his second-quickest in Tests) and conclusion (bowled for the first time in 20 innings). England closed on 253 for seven. Yasir grabbed a sixth on the third morning: different tail, same limp ending.
Trailing by 67, England had to unpick the Pakistan batting, and pronto. Broad did his bit, inveigling Hafeez into the cordon, and five balls after lunch Woakes removed Shan Masood to usher in a session of intense cricket: cat and mouse one moment, dog eat dog the next. Woakes did for Azhar, while Finn, anodyne on the opening day, summoned some mojo. He should have had a couple, but he went wicketless for the first time in his 33 Tests. Then Misbah faced his first ball from Moeen. He timed his slog; Hales timed his run on the midwicket boundary; the scorecard timed Misbah's innings as an 11-minute duck.
Sensing this was England's last route back into the game, the crowd, in very un-Lord's (or ladylike) mood, bayed for more blood. Though the teams traded punches, neither could floor the other. Woakes's consistent hostility brought a maiden Test ten-wicket haul - then made him the first England bowler to claim two five-fors in a Lord's Test since Ian Botham against New Zealand in 1978 - though by the close some useful biffs had swollen Pakistan's lead. Next day, the overnight innings again tapered off, but the target was 283; only once in 132 Lord's Tests had a team made as many in the fourth innings to win.
As if preoccupied by the looming menace of Yasir, the batsmen underestimated the seamers. An honest, if unexceptional, ball pecked the varnish of Cook's bat, while Hales cut a lifter to slip. And when Root swivel-pulled half-heartedly to deepish midwicket to make it 47 for three, all to Rahat, Pakistani nostrils scented success. In his short Test career, Vince had rarely radiated permanence. Now he collected five boundaries in six balls, though two could have gone anywhere. Before long, his detractors were wearing I-told-you-so expressions when another ambitious drive - from his third ball after lunch - warmed second slip's hands. The target was still 187 away. Could England repair the damage? Such gaping holes called for quarry-loads of Yorkshire grit. Ballance and Bairstow dug deep - until Lord's resounded again to the
Yasir yell. Ballance had stepped outside off when a delivery spat out of the rough, turned sharply and clobbered leg stump. Moeen had signalled he would attack Yasir, and was as good as his word: fourth ball, he lost his wits - dancing down the pitch in a gamble too far - and his middle stump.
For England supporters, the head was clear: 139 for six meant only one winner. Yet with Bairstow and Woakes clinging on, the heart harboured absurd notions of victory. Misbah brought back Wahab, and battle royal ensued. One spell to Woakes was the very manifestation of menace: time and again Wahab beat the bat with 90mph reverse swing. But the wicket would not come, each single prompted wild applause, the score crept up, and those notions didn't seem quite so absurd. The target less than 100 away; the fifty stand in 28 overs.
And then the dam broke. Bairstow went back to pull Yasir, as he had so often, and missed. The seventh in the match to fall within ten of a fifty - three of them to Yasir, giving a new slant on the roaring forties - Bairstow bent over his bat, distraught. Victory came in a rush, with Yasir taking ten for 141, the best match figures of his career, the best for Pakistan at Lord's (beating Waqar Younis's eight for 154 in 1996), and the best by a spinner here since Derek Underwood claimed 13 for 71 against Pakistan in 1974. And in a gesture oozing mischief as much as joie de vivre, Younis Khan orchestrated celebrations in front of the Pavilion: press-ups for all, followed by a team salute.
Man of the Match: Yasir Shah.