England bounced back in superb fashion to beat Pakistan at Old Trafford, led by an outstanding knock from Joe Root. Batting from number three, Root notched 254 and 71 not out from his two innings, and added to that with 4 catches and a wicket from his only over.
Despite huge controversy over Alastair Cook’s decision not to force the follow-on, England ran out victorious by 330 runs with a day to spare, levelling the four test series at 1-1. It was a much needed tonic after the poor display at Lord’s where the hosts were undone by Yasir Shah’s incredible bowling. We backed England to win the second test for a nice profit, and our original bet on a 3-1 correct series score remains well and truly on.
So what of the third test at Edgbaston? Can England continue in the same rich vein of form, or do Pakistan have more to offer this time around?
Joe Root has put what was a career-best innings down to the questioning of his mental approach by coach Mark Ramprakash. After some soft dismissals – notably two in the first test at Lord’s – Ramprakash asked Root whether he was ‘mentally in the right place to play test cricket’. The 25 year-old answered emphatically with a near perfect innings as he racked up the double century and set England on the way to a thumping victory.
Alastair Cook also grabbed a century of his own as the hosts declared on 589-8 to give Pakistan an early mountain to climb. Chris Woakes led the bowling charge as he took 4-67, and the visitors were all out for a relatively poor 198. Cook could have easily forced the follow-on, but his decision to put his team back into bat led to a fair amount of controversy and discussion on Sunday.
England assistant coach, Paul Farbrace, claimed it was an easy decision saying, “We thought we might as well get our runs while the pitch is good rather than put ourselves under pressure if we have to bat again after bowling them out – we are happy with the decision and hopefully we prove it right.”
However, many pundits disagreed and suggested that it was a defensive move by Cook, when he could have put the game to bed early. Regardless of your position on that decision, it mattered little as England added 173-1 before declaring on Monday, leaving Pakistan chasing a massive target of 565. That never looked remotely like happening, as the visitors were bowled out for 234, with Anderson, Woakes and Moeen taking three wickets apiece.
With Cook back in form – scoring 105 and 76 not out at Old Trafford – and Root playing superb cricket from the number three spot, suddenly England’s top order looks a little more robust. However, it would be foolish to get carried away as three of the top five failed again to make any real impact. Alex Hales, James Vince and Gary Ballance haven’t come anywhere close to cementing their places alongside Cook and Root. Hales managed just 10 and 24 at Old Trafford, while Ballance has amassed just 72 runs in three innings since being recalled to the national side. Vince remains a concern at number four, after falling to similar shots at both Lord’s and Old Trafford. Cook and Root were responsible for 506 runs between them in the 2nd test, while the rest of the top five only combined to contribute 75 between them.
England have won six of the last nine tests at Edgbaston, and Pakistan have never won there, which puts the hosts in pole position. The ground is less conducive to spin than that at Old Trafford, and that will further blunt Pakistan’s main attacking force. Marathonbet stand out in offering -145 about England wrapping up the 3rd test to make the series score 2-1 next week, and it’s a price worth taking.
The only downside for the hosts is that all-rounder Ben Stokes will miss out due to the calf injury he sustained at Old Trafford while bowling on day four. For the sake of the bet one hopes that England don’t rely too heavily on Root to come up with the goods again, and the likes of Vince, Ballance and Hales can step up to the plate. However, England’s record at Edgbaston and Pakistan’s poor showing last time out outweigh the absence of Stokes, and England look a solid proposition to take the honours again.
England to win the 3rd Test
Starts Wednesday 3rd August, 11:00 GMT