England might go into the final Test 1-0 up, but it is Pakistan who arguably provided the most enduring memory this series so far. After having put up 326 in the first innings, Pakistan had England on the ropes in the second, reducing the hosts to 12 for 2, with the ball swinging and seaming extravagantly and Mohammad Abbas prowling. Out walked Ben Stokes, England’s best batsman on form, to try and set his side back on course.
In an absorbing game of cat and mouse, Abbas ripped a hole through the left-hander’s defence, threading the needle to find just the perfect amount of seam movement to beat Stokes’ outside edge as he strode out of his crease onto the front foot, trying to disrupt the angle from which the Pakistan fast bowler was operating with metronomic precision. Having gone past the bat, it just clipped the outside edge of the off stump to send both bails flying, as an aghast Stokes and a disbelieving Root, watching from the other end, exchanged a momentary glance.
Abbas opened up on that famous delivery, saying he wasn’t as bothered by batsmen standing outside their crease to him as people might think.
“Ben Stokes is a big name in cricket right now,” he told the PCB’s in-house media channel. “He is one of the world’s best allrounders, and he’s performed several times for his country. Before the game, we watched videos and analysed how best to disrupt him. So we went round the wicket straightaway. I tried to bowl in the right areas, and he kept moving forward to try and disturb me. But my view is when a batsman comes forward, I am not disturbed by that. I feel I am disturbing the batsman by forcing him to move around the crease.
“There is a bit of regret we didn’t get over the line at Old Trafford. We played brilliant cricket for three and a half days, and England then took the game away from us by playing better cricket for two hours. We’re excited, but we need a lot of hard work, and we’ll leave no stone unturned in trying to level the series.”
Abbas has enjoyed a flying start to his Test career, taking 59 wickets in his first ten matches, and established himself as an automatic selection with 17 wickets in a two-match Test series against Australia on the turgid pitches of UAE in 2018. A back injury hampered him for much of the year that followed, but he said the conditions in England were enjoyable to bowl in.
“Bowlers get helped here in England because of the weather, conditions, as well as the Duke ball, the seam of which is upright,” he said. “I am a seam bowler, so that assists me. But wherever you play, if you bowl well, you will be rewarded. In England, you can dominate the batsmen a little bit, but you need to remain consistent, bowl long spells sometimes, and then reap rewards. You can’t expect wickets to just be given to you without working hard and maintaining your concentration levels.”