England ready for the challenge with another special finish needed

Last summer’s World Cup Final win and Ashes miracle at Headingley having been given a regular airing over the last few months. Now, with England trailing Pakistan by 244 – who have two wickets spare in the second innings – Chris Woakes believes both can provide inspiration for what would be another dramatic win here at Emirates Old Trafford.

Having given up a first-innings lead of 107 when they were bowled out for 219 just before tea, a gutsy bowling performance reduced the tourists to 137 for eight by stumps. In a match where Pakistan started brightest, it took until the evening of day three for England to finally give them something to worry about.

Woakes was a big part of that, taking two for 11 from his five overs, both prized wickets in the batting crown jewel Babar Azam and the Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali. Historically, the highest successful four innings chase at the ground is 294 by England against New Zealand in 2008. Though it is important not to put too much stock in that information – England were four down and, thus, could have scored more had it been required – it does show the significance of what is to be asked of the current XI. The odds are in Pakistan’s favour going into day four.

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“You look at those wins (in 2019),” said Woakes. “Those are the sort of wins where you’re written off. We’ll definitely draw on those experiences and I think we’ve definitely got the ability in that dressing room to go and get a win here. It’s just going to be difficult.”

Though success with the bat has been through patience, as evidenced by Shan Masood’s 156 from 319 deliveries, Woakes feels England’s batsmen will need to take charge of the chase. The pitch has shown enough variable bounce and turn to suggest watching and waiting may only end one way.

“We’ve got to try and be a bit proactive and take the positive approach, rather than sit in and go about it the long way,” he said. “The longer you’re there at the crease, the more you probably feel like there’s one with your name on it. We need to be brave and try and put the pressure back on them. There is always that pressure for spinners in the fourth innings – there is pressure on them as well. So we’ll try and remember that. If we can put them under pressure a little bit then that will hopefully work in our favour.”

His optimism was shared by Pakistan’s spin bowling coach, Mushtaq Ahmed. There was a sense that England could have been batted out of the game by now. But as it is, Mushtaq, who used to be part of England’s backroom staff, is not too concerned.

“We are not frustrated,” he said. “We are very confident, the lead is 244 at the moment and if we can get another 20 to 30 runs that will be a very good score on that pitch. Yasir and Shadab have hardly played much cricket for the last five or six months, but the way they bowled in the first innings I think they’ve got the momentum now.

“They understand the pitch and what pace you need to bowl on it. What fields you need to have to different batsmen and I think they are feeling confident in their bowling now. Yasir especially, I think he started a bit nervously but we can understand that and I think he then bowled well and now if we set a good target, they can be lethal out there.”

The real kicker to Pakistan’s second innings came at the end of the day when Ben Stokes was able to rouse himself from his batsman-only role to take two of the last three wickets.

His participation with the ball was to be minimal due to issues with his back and quad that he picked up in the second Test against West Indies. Having only batted in the third Test of that series, he was expected to do the same here with Joe Root naming the same XI.

But after three days, Stokes was there to call on and returned figures of two for 11 from four overs.

“I had no idea whether he was able to bowl or ready to bowl,” said Woakes. “I’m not overly surprised that he could do what he did. That’s Ben Stokes: we know he is capable of miracles. The longer he’d had to recover probably helped.

“He’s got a bit of a golden arm, he always has had. He has the knack of picking up wickets. When you are in a bit of dog fight, he’s the sort of player you want in your team. He always put his hand up and gives 110 per cent. And he certainly did that picking up a couple of wickets.”

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