Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton have lavished praise on England after they wrapped up a historic series win in Pakistan, insisting it is “amazing” how much the team has changed under Ben Stokes’ leadership.
England, who came into the series with just two Test wins in Pakistan in 61 years, clinched their second in a week on Monday as they defeated the hosts by 26 runs in Multan to take an unassailable 2-0 lead.
Harry Brook starred in the match as England once again took the game to their opponents with the bat, while seamers Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and James Anderson complimented Jack Leach’s spin to end the game on day four after a Saud Shakeez-Mohammad Nawaz partnership threatened to take the series to a decider.
“That is a magnificent victory,” said Hussain on Sky Sports Cricket. “Two very docile pitches, two very different pitches… and this one spun.
“They’ve had to work so, so hard to pull off those victories. You spare a thought for Pakistan, they were 10 minutes away from getting a draw in the last game and they were 20-odd runs away here, and that shows the effort England had to put in. They didn’t just walk over Pakistan, they had to put in a real effort.”
Fellow former captain Atherton said England’s victory was the result of a “clear strategy”.
“One was to score quickly and therefore give yourselves plenty of time to take those wickets,” he explained. “England have only ever won two games here but they’ve only lost a couple as well, there’s been a hellish number of draws.
“It’s a very difficult place to force a win because the pitches are so flat and so slow – that’s why one strategy was to score quickly and they took that to the nth degree in Rawalpindi, scoring between six and seven runs an over. But even here in Multan, that rate was five an over or a bit more.
“Then, fittingly the last wickets went to the seamers here. They have out-bowled the Pakistan seamers and I don’t know how often you’ve been able to say that in recent years.
“I think the strategy was clear and it’s been absolutely vindicated by the series win.”
Athers: England’s change under Stokes is amazing
England have been ploughing through records on their first Test series in Pakistan since 2005, and Multan provided more memorable milestones as they won back-to-back Tests in Pakistan for the first time.
It also added to Stokes’ incredible record as captain, with England having won eight of nine Tests under his leadership.
“He’s transformed England’s Test match team,” stressed Athers. “He has transformed and galvanised an outfit with few changes, and that is the measure of leadership.
“He’s going to be a very significant England captain, he’s going to be one of our greatest ever captains by the time he finishes, I think. I can’t remember another captain, certainly England and maybe worldwide, who has had such a dramatic and immediate impact upon taking over.
“Think where England were. I was stood at the end of the Ashes calling for the heads of the captain, the coach and the Director of Cricket – England were terrible. And then they were beaten in the Caribbean.
“Suddenly the team has completely transformed under different leadership, the combination of Stokes and [Test head coach] Brendon McCullum, that clear messaging that was talked about. That attitude that it doesn’t matter so much if we get beat, we’re going to give it a go.
“Suddenly they look a transformed side, it is amazing how it’s changed and that’s down to leadership. It’s incredible.”
Nasser: McCullum will warn team | ‘Key has got big decisions right’
Despite England’s triumph, Hussain still thinks the second Test will give them lessons for the future, highlighting finishing the five wickets lost on day three in their second innings for just 73 runs.
“They will learn from this,” he said. “McCullum is no fool, he will sit there and he will think about that 73-5. Stokes will not say it on interview, because he wants clear messaging like Morgan’s men and that white-ball revolution.
“But McCullum will say to his team, ‘well done, you got over the line but just think about that 73-5’.
“He will hope that next time they think about that, and they can’t just keep going this close, because a better side may just knock them and say, ‘don’t take the mick out of the game’.”
Hussain, though, also reserved praise for Rob Key, who became Director of Cricket last April after the disappointment of the Ashes and the series defeat in the Caribbean.
“Rob Key has got the big decisions right” he added. “He got the captain right, the coach right, and the atmosphere is right. When he came in, they said it was about jobs for the boys… but that boy has done a pretty good job.”
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