England may have to get by without Ben Stokes next week for the fourth time this Test match summer – but before then, they have a series-levelling win to celebrate.
Alastair Cook’s hosts were able to bowl Pakistan out for 234 to seal a 330-run victory at Old Trafford, even with only 5.2 overs from Stokes before he limped out of their attack at Old Trafford.
The all-rounder will have scans on his right calf today, but Cook is already conceding he is a “fairly big doubt” for next week’s third Investec Test at Edgbaston.
It will be especially frustrating if Stokes is ruled out again, having returned for this victory after surgery on his left knee made him unavailable for the preceding Test and two before that against Sri Lanka.
England can be encouraged nonetheless by the emphatic nature of a win that has levelled the score at 1-1, with two Tests still to play.
In a match featuring a career-best 254 from Yorkshire’s Joe Root and a mammoth 506 runs in total from the captain and his deputy, Cook hailed the collective response to defeat at Lord’s.
“Clearly when someone gets 250, that does help – but it was a really good (all-round) performance,” said Cook.
“(Joe) is a world-class player, and it was a great innings – one of the best I’ve seen to really set up the game for us.
“I thought the character the guys showed – coming in under pressure after Lord’s – to get almost 800 runs for nine wickets, and then bowl them out (twice) for 400, was really good.”
Cook referenced the ‘cricketing gods’ after last week’s defeat at HQ, which Pakistan marked with a salute and press-up celebration routine as a homage to their pre-tour army boot camp.
By implication, he was pondering then whether there might be a payback in store, but he declined an invitation to cite England’s success here as revenge.
“It was us showing the standard of cricket we can play,” he said.
“We didn’t do that at Lord’s. We didn’t bowl as well as we could (there), certainly didn’t bat as well as we could, and dropped too many catches.
“We put most of those things right in this game.”
As for Stokes, England can only hope for the best.
“It is too early to say,” added Cook. “Stokesy is a pretty tough nut, and he said he felt something go.
“I’d say he’d be a fairly big doubt for Edgbaston – that’s fairly obvious.
“If the scan is a good result, he’s a tough guy, but that would be a big risk.”
Stokes’s irrepressible nature, as well as his all-round brilliance, help to make England tick.
“He plays on the edge, never takes a backward step ... and drags people with him,” said the captain. “So if he’s not there, he is a big miss.”
Cook was at least able to shelve the short-lived consternation surrounding his decision the previous afternoon not to enforce the follow-on even with a first-innings lead of 391.
He said: “I was a little bit surprised when I got home (Sunday night), the amount of controversy it seemed to have caused. We’d bowled 60 odd overs, had a couple of guys coming back from injury and thought we’d just pile on a few more runs – then go hard again (yesterday). That’s what I asked of the lads, and they did it well.”
Root feels that getting a big score is a confidence-booster since moving up in the batting order from No 4 to No 3.
He said: “I think it helps, but I still approach the game in the same way, you still play the same situation of what’s in front of you.
“I don’t really approach batting at three differently to four, but taking that risk out of my game will have helped facing the newer ball as well. It is beautifully poised and I think both sides have played some really strong cricket.
“Obviously us in this game, we have played very well with bat and ball and we are very confident now going into Edgbaston and (can) hopefully take that forward into the rest of the series.
“I’m sure it will be very entertaining to watch for the remainder.
Cook’s opposite number Misbah-ul-Haq had to reflect on a reversal of fortune, after the highs of Lord’s for Pakistan.
“England played really well, and the toss was vital on this pitch – then Cook and Root almost took the game away from us,” he said.
“It was difficult to come back in the game facing 600, and then our batting was a big disappointment. To get 198 and 234 on a good pitch – you can’t take that.”
Of all the jarring statistics, the differential between Yasir Shah’s 10-141 in the first Test and 1-266 in the second was remarkable.
Trying to make sense of it, Misbah believes the leg-spinner will have the resilience to restate his claim as the world’s No 1 bowler.
Misbah said: “He is a strong character, and before the next Test he will analyse what went wrong – and come back.”