Chris Woakes leads England to stunning win over Pakistan in first Test

England's Chris Woakes, right, plays a shot during the fourth day of the first cricket Test match between England and Pakistan at Old Trafford in Manchester. (AP)
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Updated 08 August 2020

Chris Woakes leads England to stunning win over Pakistan in first Test

  • England were struggling in pursuit of a victory target of 277 after collapsing to 117-5
  • Victory meant England had won an opening Test for the first time in six series

MANCHESTER: Chris Woakes hit an unbeaten 84 as England came from behind to beat Pakistan by three wickets in the first Test at Old Trafford on Saturday.
England were struggling in pursuit of a victory target of 277 after collapsing to 117-5 on the fourth day.
But man-of-the-match Woakes, who had helped drag England back into this contest with 2-11 in just five overs late Friday, and fellow World Cup winner Jos Buttler turned the tide with a stand of 139.
“It was a brilliant chase,” said England captain Joe Root at the presentation ceremony.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the lads.
“That partnership with Woakesy and Jos was magnificent.
“One thing you can never doubt in our dressing room is the character. I am really proud and pleased that has shone through today.”
Nevertheless, with just 21 more runs needed, Buttler was lbw for 75 after trying to reverse-sweep leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
By the time Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi took the new ball, England needed just 13 more runs to win at a sun-drenched Old Trafford.
But there was still time for England to lose their seventh wicket when, with four more needed, Stuart Broad was plumb lbw on the sweep to Yasir.
Woakes, however, finished the match with an edged boundary off Afridi as England went 1-0 up in a three-match campaign.
Victory meant England had won an opening Test for the first time in six series.
Defeat was tough on Yasir, who took eight wickets in the match.
Wicketkeeper Buttler had a poor game in the field, twice missing Shan Masood on 45 during the Pakistan opener’s 156 that was instrumental in leaving England with a first-innings deficit of over a hundred runs.
“If I take those chances, we’re not chasing 270-odd,” Buttler told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special.
“I know it’s not good enough as an international wicketkeeper...If I am going to continue to be a wicketkeeper in this team, I’m going to have to be better,” he admitted.
But Buttler, who led England to a stunning one-wicket win over Australia with an unbeaten century in a one-day international on this ground two years ago, put the pressure back on Pakistan with the bat.
Buttler, whose father was admitted to hospital Friday but has since been released, told Sky Sports: “We (England) turned up today still with a lot of belief.”
Pakistan captain Azhar Ali praised Buttler and Woakes by saying: “They changed the momentum of the game and unfortunately we couldn’t reply to whatever they threw at us.”
Buttler’s fifty came off just 55 balls, with seven fours, with Woakes no slouch in a 59-ball fifty he completed by cover-driving Naseem Shah for the eighth boundary of his innings.
It was Woakes’s highest Test score since his hundred against India two years ago.
Although Woakes is known to be vulnerable to the short ball, Pakistan did not pitch short to the all-rounder until he was well set.
Only twice has a team chased more than 200 to win in the fourth innings of a Test at Old Trafford, with England making 294-4 against New Zealand in 2008 and 231-3 against the West Indies in 2004.
Earlier, England lost four wickets for 31 runs in slipping to 117-5, with Root and Ben Stokes both falling in the collapse.
Root made 42 before he nicked Naseem to Babar Azam in the slips.
Stokes had guided England to an astounding one-wicket win over Australia from a seemingly hopeless position with a brilliant century in the third Ashes Test last year.
But there was no repeat of his Headingley heroics on Saturday when he fell for just nine, with wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan holding an excellent catch after Stokes got a thin glove to a Yasir googly that bounced.
Pakistan resumed on 137-8, a lead of 244.
Yasir struck a quickfire 33, with Pakistan adding 32 in 16 balls Saturday before they were dismissed for 169 in their second innings.
England will now try to complete their first series win over Pakistan in 10 years with victory in the second Test at Southampton starting on Thursday.


Al-Nassr on target for first Asian crown

Updated 28 September 2020

Al-Nassr on target for first Asian crown

  • The Riyadh giants defeated compatriots Al-Taawoun 1-0 on Sunday in the second round to be rewarded with another all-Saudi clash in the quarter-final
  • Now only Al-Ahli, who finished third in the SPL season, a full 14 points behind Al-Nassr, stand between Rui Vitoria’s men and a place in the last four

RIYADH: Al-Nassr may have missed out on the 2020 Saudi Pro League (SPL) title but they are now regarded as favorites to win a first continental crown after rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Sadd both fell by the wayside in the AFC Champions League.

The Riyadh giants defeated compatriots Al-Taawoun 1-0 on Sunday in the second round to be rewarded with another all-Saudi clash in the quarter-final. Now only Al-Ahli, who finished third in the SPL season, a full 14 points behind Al-Nassr, stand between Rui Vitoria’s men and a place in the last four.

“When you get to this stage of a major competition like this then you don’t mind who you play as every team is a strong one,” the Portuguese coach said.

“The game against Al-Taawoun was tough and the game against Al-Ahli will be tough. We will have to be at our best.”

Al-Nassr are looking strong at both ends of the field. Moroccan goal-machine Abderrazak Hamdallah finally broke the deadlock on Sunday evening with 15 minutes remaining, firing home a low shot from close range.

The striker, who won the 2019 SPL golden boot while propelling Al-Nassr to the title, has now equaled the tournament record set by Shanghai SIPG’s Hulk, of scoring in nine consecutive Champions League appearances.

“We know that if he gets a chance then he will score. Whether the chance comes in the first or last minute, it doesn’t matter but, of course, this is a team effort,” added Vitoria.

As clinical as Al-Nassr are in front of goal, they are solid at the back, conceding just two goals in the five games that have taken place since the tournament restarted in mid-September.

Both Al-Nassr and Al-Ahli won their respective groups but the Jeddah club did not look as convincing as their Riyadh rivals, losing two of the four games they had to play after Al-Wahda of Abu Dhabi had to withdraw over positive test results at the club for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The second-round win over Shabab Al-Ahli was as tight as could be as the Saudi team triumphed in a penalty shootout over the Dubai club after the game had finished 1-1.

“We had no preference as to whether we would play Al-Nassr or Al-Taawoun,” said Al-Ahli coach Vladan Milojevic on Monday. “It is exciting to play another team from the same country in the quarter-final. We know each other well and it will be good for the fans too. Any team at this stage is strong.”

Should Al-Nassr progress, the semi-final should hold no fears. Defending Asian champions Al-Hilal were regarded as the favorites from the West Zone (the tournament is divided into two geographic halves until the final) but after topping their group, the title-holders were forced to withdraw by the Asian Football Confederation last Wednesday after the squad was hit by a COVID-19 outbreak.

While much of Asia sympathized with Al-Hilal, the absence of the current Asian and Saudi Arabian champions will not be mourned too much at Al-Nassr.

On Sunday, another strong favorite was eliminated. Al-Sadd of Qatar are coached by former Barcelona and Spain legend Xavi and boast former Arsenal striker Santi Cazorla, South Korean internationals Nam Tae-hee and Jung Woo-yung and a number of Qatar’s 2019 Asian Cup-winning squad in their ranks. The 2011 champions, who finished just behind Al-Nassr in the group stage, were expected to go far.

Instead, they lost 1-0 to Persepolis. The Iranians will take on Pakhtakor of Uzbekistan, who defeated Esteghlal 2-1, another team from Tehran, in the other quarter final. Both teams have plenty of Asian experience and knowhow but neither have the star power of Al-Hilal and Al-Sadd.

Should Al-Nassr get to the final then they will face what could be a very tired East Asian opponent. The group stage resumes in mid-November on the opposite side of the continent and that means teams from Japan, China, Australia, or South Korea would arrive for the final after playing as many as nine games in the space on the back of domestic commitments.

The route to a first Asian crown for Al-Nassr is looking clearer than it has ever done though Al-Ahli will have something to say about that on Wednesday.