After another remarkable Test victory in Pakistan, the magnitude of England’s achievement was not lost on captain Ben Stokes.
England took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series with a drama-filled 26-run win in the second Test in Multan, Mark Wood showing his class to take four wickets.
Pakistan’s Saud Shakeel and Mohammad Nawaz fought back to build a solid partnership and put the hosts at 290-5, but Wood took control to remove both before England’s attack dismissed the remainder of the tail for 328.
The series victory marks England’s first in Pakistan since 2000 when Nasser Hussain’s side claimed a third Test decider in the darkness in Karachi to win the series 1-0 – and the moment is not lost on England’s captain.
“It was incredible to have finished this Test match 2-0 and taking the series,” Stokes told Sky Sports Cricket after a match to remember in Multan.
“There’s some seriously tired bodies up there. Everyone’s flown into this and we’ve achieved something really special this week.
“A huge credit again has got to go to the effort put in this week and carrying on in the way that has been a successful thing for us in the last six or seven months.
“I think coming to the subcontinent is always a tough place to come and win cricket but we know what we have achieved this week, we know that it is something, not unheard of, but very rare to do especially as an English team.
“We will take it all in and we do understand how special of an achievement this is this week but as we keep saying, these series victories and these wins are obviously part of a much bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve at the moment.”
The England mentality: Entertainment over results
When England finished the second innings on 355 all out, there were some nervous calls that England should have played it safer and worked towards a more secure, 400-run target in their search for a famous win.
However, for Stokes, to have dragged out the innings to a higher score would not only go against his side’s character, but also against the fundamental principles that his side abides by: entertainment, belief in the strategy and positive cricket.
“We just like to stay in the moment of where we are and just focusing on what we are going to go out and do and not sort of think, if we do this, this might happen, if we do that, that might happen.
“You look back at our second innings and we might have played onto 400 but that isn’t what we are about.
“Playing entertaining cricket regardless of the situation and I suppose the only time where it really felt Pakistan were ahead of us was that literally partnership with Nawaz and Shakeel today.
“That put us on the back foot a little bit but one thing we did do this week was, whenever Pakistan with the bat felt like they were getting into a rhythm, we stuck with our guns, we stuck with our plans, and luckily we got rewarded with that.”
Welcome back Mark Wood: The ‘perfect fit’ for Stokes
To stick to such a mentality requires buy-in from all of the England playing group and none have bought in more than fast bowler Mark Wood, proving the difference with his four wickets in the second innings.
After the series win, Wood said he would “run through a brick wall” for his captain in just the latest example of the respect Stokes’ players have for him and his vision.
“That is what we picked him for,” added Stokes. “We picked him to be the game-changing option for us and the way in which he came in with that 15 or 20 minutes before the break to get those two wickets was a massive boost for us because the two guys out in the middle looked comfortable.
“I think what made it easier for him this week coming in was that we made it very clear to him what type of role he was going to play with the ball.
“The skill which our lads possess with their relentless line and length…. it brings them back into their own again and it is really hard work.”
The future is bright: Here comes Harry Brook
Not only is England’s bowling attack reaping the rewards of refreshed and exciting talent, but so is their batting line-up through future stars such as Harry Brook.
Brook secured a double century in Multan and Stokes believes he has the talent to succeed in every format cricket has to offer.
“Harry had the summer he had last year and had all the big ups before he made his debut at the end of the summer,” he said. “To come here and put in that performance again is just phenomenal.
“He is one of those rare players where you look across all formats and you can just see him being successful anywhere. Massive shout, but Virat Kohli is one of those guys where his technique is just so simple it works everywhere.
“The pressure he puts back on the opposition is exactly what we are about and we are very, very lucky in the way we could replace Jonny (Bairstow) and have Harry coming in.
“Those two batting at No.5, both go about it the same way and both bring so much to the team. You want those headaches when it comes to the final 11 every week.”
Working towards a bigger picture
With so much positivity around the ‘England way’ at the moment, Stokes is using it as an opportunity to continue to focus on the bigger picture.
While results are important, Stokes is raring to take any opportunity to show that Test cricket is not the “losing” format of the game.
“I think I sort of knew the kind of enjoyment the public would get from seeing England playing in Pakistan but I don’t feel like we are playing away, if that makes sense?
“We have won the first two games and we walk off to people just enjoying what they have watched and that is what we want to do.
“Wherever we go in the world we want people to enjoy the cricket we are playing and the more we can do that, the more hopefully Test cricket stops getting spoken about like it is the losing form of cricket because it is definitely not.
“Days like this and Test matches like this and last week are what you live for and you feel honoured to be a part of stuff like that.
“All we can do is try and create something where people want to be part of the longer format going forward.”
Tuesday 13th December 4:45am
England will now be looking to claim a series sweep for the first time in Pakistan, with the third and final Test match beginning in Karachi on Saturday.
Watch England’s tour of Pakistan live on Sky Sports. Coverage of the third Test begins on Saturday from 4.30am on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event, with play getting underway at 5am.
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