England picked up just their third Test series victory in Pakistan in history this year. Their second Test success in Multan was their eighth win in their last nine matches in the format of the game.
Since Ben Stokes was appointed as captain earlier in 2022, replacing Joe Root, who handed his resignation to the ECB after defeat to the West Indies, England have completely changed their approach to the five-day game. They have been aggressive, taken brave decisions and they have played with the fundamental goal of winning matches, rather than making sure they do not lose.
The opening two Test matches in Pakistan may have been enough for all the other Test nations in cricket to follow England’s approach. If that does prove to be the case, a whole new wind of life may be brought into Test cricket, making it just as exciting as T20 and ODI action.
Stokes Accepted the Possibility of Defeat to Win in Rawalpindi
In the first Test in Rawalpindi, as the BBC match report documented following the thrilling game, England scored an emphatic 657 from their first innings. Four of the top five players on their scorecard recorded centuries. From the very first session of that game, the victors attacked Pakistan’s bowlers, and they were rewarded for that approach.
What a win boys!! 🦁pic.twitter.com/en033FibQU— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) December 6, 2022
The biggest moment in the first Test came when Stokes opted to declare on 264/7 on day four. That left Pakistan with a very gettable target of 343. It was a move that left pundits and cricket fans stunned. The England captain said after the game that their only focus was to win the match. That decision proved to be the correct one, as his team prevailed by 74 runs.
Not many Test captains in history have made a braver decision than Stokes did. It showed he had full confidence in his bowlers to pick up the 10 wickets they needed. That decision also ensured there was enough incentive for Pakistan to try and chase the total, rather than blocking out for four sessions to force a draw.
England Force a Result in Second Test
As you can read from the Reuters test match report, the second Test in Multan was just as exciting as the first, as it also went into the final day with all three results possible. Pakistan needed 355 to win in the second innings and they looked to be on course to that target, before some excellent bowling from James Anderson, Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson.
Pakistan fell short of success when they were bowled out for 328. If it wasn’t for Harry Brook’s century in England’s second innings, the visitors may not have been able to set a competitive score. The Yorkshire batsman hit 14 fours and one six in an excellent innings. Despite a lack of experience in international cricket, Brook has shown in this series that he has a huge future with England.
Stokes paid a lot of credit to his bowlers following the second Test win over the PCB-represented team. The England captain did not bowl a single over himself during the match, such was the confidence he had in his players.
England On Top Form Ahead of Ashes Series
2023 is going to be a big year for England in Test cricket as they will host Australia in the Ashes. As of the 16th of December, they are the 6/5 underdogs in the Betway sports betting for the five-match series, with Australia the marginal favourites at Evens. In the last Ashes series, England were hammered by their rivals 4-0, which was a huge result for Cricket Australia and the players involved. Under this new era, Stokes and Brendon McCullum will be optimistic that their team can perform much better, not just because of the home advantage they will have, but because they have shown against New Zealand, India, South Africa and Pakistan that they are a strong team in this format.
Australia win the third Test and retain the Ashes.— England Cricket (@englandcricket) December 28, 2021
Scorecard: https://t.co/nJMtTINVx5#Ashes | #AUSvENGpic.twitter.com/hExjpxHMrw
The Ashes is one of the most popular ICC tournaments in the world and England have won just one of the last five renewals of the series. They came out on top 3-2 in a thrilling series in 2015 in front of their home fans. Should England go on to regain the urn, it will go a long way to proving they are the best Test team in world cricket today.
It is going to be fascinating over the next 12 months to see how the likes of India, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa all respond to what England have done in Test cricket in 2022. It would be no surprise to see many of these teams copy their approach.