IT WAS a good day for the West Country, and an even better one for England.
Jos Buttler, from Taunton, and Dominic Bess, from Exeter, inspired an innings triumph in the Headingley Test.
First, Buttler struck an unbeaten 80 from 101 balls, with 11 fours and two sixes, as the hosts totalled 363 to gain a first innings lead of 189.
Then Bess returned 3-33 – his first wickets at Test level – as England squared the two-match series in emphatic style.
Bess, 20, also contributed the second-highest score of 49 in the England innings, made as a nightwatchman from No 4.
Having also struck 57 on debut at Lord’s last week, where England lost the first Test by nine wickets and Bess went wicket-less, some wondered whether England had found a spinner who was more effective as a batsman than the other way round.
That may still prove the case, not least because Bess looks so competent with the bat, but it was his off-breaks that did the damage yesterday as Pakistan imploded, Stuart Broad also capturing three wickets to follow the three he claimed in the first innings.
The 20-year-old Bess also showed prowess in the field, taking a spectacular one-handed catch at mid-off, diving to his left, to remove the No 3 Haris Sohail off James Anderson.
It was a world-class grab from a man whom England hope will develop into a world-class player, a man who exudes confidence beyond his tender years.
The only real question going into day three was whether there would be a day four, with England in command at 302-7 in reply to Pakistan’s first innings 174.
Batting had not been easy hitherto, evidenced by the fact there had been only one half-century on the first two days, and Buttler’s progress from 34 overnight to and beyond the fifty mark spoiled what had threatened to be the highest total in Test cricket without a half-century – England’s 315 against the West Indies at Trinidad in 1986.
But in cloudy and clammy conditions, Buttler looked imperious from the outset, cover-driving the left-arm pace of Mohammad Amir to the boundary with a regal flourish.
At the other end, Sam Curran, celebrating his 20th birthday, crashed fellow pace bowler Mohammad Abbas to the cover boundary with similar style.
Curran, by the bye, was only the 10th England player to celebrate a birthday during a Test debut, a list which includes two Yorkshiremen in the form of David Denton and David Bairstow.
In cloudy and clammy conditions, Buttler looked imperious from the outset, cover-driving the left-arm pace of Mohammad Amir to the boundary with a regal flourish.Chris Waters
Curran had advanced to 20 when he was the victim of a superb catch low down at second slip by Asad Shafiq off Abbas, after the initial decision – and soft signal – had been not out.
Usually, television proves inconclusive in such cases, so credit to television umpire Paul Reiffel for making the call.
Buttler then proceeded to up the ante, cover driving Abbas to the boundary and hooking him for six, reaching his fifty from 92 balls.
He pulled and off-drove successive fours off Hasan Ali, with no blade of grass seemingly safe from his flashing blade.
Buttler needed someone to stay with him out in the middle but Broad came and went, pulling Faheem Ashraf to long-leg, where Abbas took another fine catch, right at his heels.
The look on Buttler’s face as Broad walked off would not be printable were one to put it into English, Buttler responding by launching Ashraf for a mighty straight six into the building site at the Football Stand end.
Finally, the fun and games ended when James Anderson guided Hasan Ali to first slip, England having added 61 in 55 minutes from the start of play, 46 of them to Buttler.
Pakistan were soon in trouble in their second innings, losing three wickets before lunch as England eyed the kill.
Azhar Ali was yorked by Anderson, the middle stump cartwheeling towards the Carnegie pavilion, before Bess pulled off his acrobatic catch to send back Sohail.
When replays showed that Shafiq had gloved Broad down the leg-side to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow, Broad had his 415th Test scalp – taking him past birthday boy Wasim Akram – and the visitors were reeling on 42-3.
They offered a smidgen of resistance after the break through Imam-ul-Haq and Usman Salahuddin, but when Bess trapped Imam lbw with his sixth ball from the Rugby Stand end, it triggered a collapse from 84-3.
Sarfraz Ahmed went lbw to Chris Woakes; Curran had Shadab Khan caught at first slip, while Ashraf tried to slog Bess – now operating from the Kirkstall Lane end – to leg and was caught at backward-point.
Salahuddin smeared Bess to mid-on, and Broad nipped in with the last two wickets, having Hasan Ali caught at first slip and Abbas held at third.
The final blow landed at 4.22pm, leaving Buttler and Bess not only the toast of the West Country, but all of England too.