When Pakistan stepped into the Lord's Test against England, they were under extreme pressure, carrying the burden of a haunted past.
When Pakistan stepped into the Lord's Test against England, they were under extreme pressure, carrying the burden of a haunted past. Fans were sceptical over how they would react to the situation, for Pakistan have a history of crumbling under pressure. But, the visitors came up with a commendable performance, putting all the pre-match predictions on the backfoot. One of the major differences between 2010 Lord's and 2016 was the leadership aspect. Back in 2010, they were under Salman Butt, who was appointed leader although he wasn't a fixed member himself. Misbah Ul Haq, on the other hand, enjoys the respect of his teammates.
Apart from being an inspiration to the team, battling on even at the age of 42, Misbah also has the ability to lead from the front. And, this is exactly what he did at Lord's. Walking in, as he usually does, with his team in trouble, Misbah played the knock that was crucial to Pakistan setting up a challenging first-innings total. His hundred will be regarded highly in the history of Pakistan cricket. It was the knock that signalled intent, and told the opposition in no uncertain terms that Pakistan were not here to make the numbers, which has been the case with Asian sides who have visited the country in the recent past.
While Misbah gave Pakistan the initial push, leg-spinner Yasir Shah proved that he was a match-winner not just in Asian conditions. Unlike Ravichandran Ashwin and the Sri Lankan spinners, who failed to make much of an impact on the English batsmen, Yasir was at the batsmen always, hardly allowing them any breathing space. More significantly, he not only kept the opposition tied down, but also claimed wickets at regular intervals. And most of these scalps were gained by beating the batsmen through skill. The emergence of Yasir has undoubtedly given Pakistan a big edge in the bowling department.
The visitors were aided by a few other notable contributions at Lord's, without which the memorable victory would not have been possible. Rahat Ali's three-wicket burst on what was to be the final day of the Test was certainly among them. Having failed to gain a lead of 300, Pakistan would have been a tinge disappointed, but Ali made that evaporate in a matter of a few overs. Further, Asad Shafiq played important knocks in both the innings. The underrated player held things together just as Pakistan would have been worried over them crumbling. In the context of the Test, Sarfraz Ahmed's 40 plus was worth much more as it aided the team in setting the opposition a challenging total.
In many ways, this Test was about redemption for Pakistan, and Mohammad Amir more than anyone else. The left-arm seamer was nervous for sure, and thus wasn't at his best. But, he was just feeling his way back into Test cricket. It remains to be seen where he goes from here. The bigger worry for Pakistan would be the form of their openers. Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood did not look the part at Lord's. They will be under pressure going into the second Test. Also, it is too early to be critical of Younis Khan, but he looked rather ordinary out in the middle. Wahab Riaz swung the ball, but like in the past, he did not have wickets to show.