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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Jos Buttler steps up and still no one for four-day cricket Tests? England-Pakistan series takeaways

At the conclusion of the two-Test series that ended in a 1-1 draw, Paul Radley looks at the highlights

England leave the field after winning the second Test against Pakistan at Headingley. Gareth Copley / Getty Images
England leave the field after winning the second Test against Pakistan at Headingley. Gareth Copley / Getty Images

Pakistan repeated their feat of two years earlier by drawing a Test series in England.

It is an achievement that is not to be sniffed at, on territory that is notoriously tricky for touring sides.

There was the sense after the capitulation to an innings defeat at Headingley in the second Test that more questions than answers remain around their Test team, though. And they are not the only ones.

Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq is still finding his way in Test cricket. Stu Forster / Getty Images
Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq is still finding his way in Test cricket. Stu Forster / Getty Images

Opening up

Despite the promise he showed in a nervy run-chase against Ireland, Imam-ul-Haq did not do enough to prove for certain he is an upgrade on any of Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, or Ahmed Shahzad.

Realistically, the opening berths have been a problem for Pakistan since Imam and Aslam were still learning to walk.

In an ideal world, Azhar Ali, who had a poor series, would not be up there, exposed to the brand new ball, but would be restored to one-down, or the middle-order.

Whether Fakhar Zaman will be given his chance in the long format next time round remains to be seen.

It might be worth it, as there is evidence to show short-form specialists can adapt, given the chance.

Jos Buttler did it

There are a variety of examples of players who have thrived in Twenty20 cricket first, then shown they can adapt to the Test game. David Warner, the Australia opener, is the most obvious and successful example.

In a different context, Jos Buttler is doing his best to show he can do the same, too.

Few knew quite what to expect from a player who came straight from the Indian Premier League (IPL) to make his Test comeback for England.

He might have exceeded his own expectations as he turned his rich vein of form in the IPL frenzy into a series-saving run for England in whites.

His 80 not out at Headingley was, remarkably, the top individual score in the series.

England batsman Jos Buttler made a solid Test comeback. Lee Smith / Reuters
England batsman Jos Buttler made a solid Test comeback. Lee Smith / Reuters

Pakistan consistently inconsistent

It is a cliche to call Pakistan unpredictable. And England have hardly been inconsistent of late – more consistently bad. Yet the series did swing erratically from one match to the next.

What was it down to? Pakistan being inspired by playing at the Home of Cricket in the opening game at Lord’s? The one-off Test workout in Ireland firming their collective resolve?

Or England being stung into life by the fierce criticism from outside their bubble after the supine effort in the opening game?

Whatever it was, it spoke of two fragile teams struggling to find their way up from Test cricket’s mid-table mire.

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Read more on England v Pakistan cricket:

Joe Root: England have 'point to prove' in second Pakistan Test

Talking points: Where has it all gone wrong for Joe Root's side?

Pakistan's new era ushered in by bowling attack at Lord's

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England fast bowler Stuart broad, right, was unhappy with Michael Vaughan's comments. Lee Smith / Reuters
England fast bowler Stuart broad, right, was unhappy with Michael Vaughan's comments. Lee Smith / Reuters

Vaughan’s broadsides

The back and forth between Michael Vaughan, the former England captain turned media pundit, and fast bowler Stuart Broad provided great entertainment.

Certainly, the England quick seemed emboldened by the criticism judged by the way he raised his game at Headingley, to lay the platform for the series-levelling win.

But the win at Headingley does not prove Vaughan is wrong to suggest the team is in drastic need of a shake-up. Even if they proceed to a series win over India later this summer, it might not fully support the case against him.

If England are going to be considered a halfway decent Test team, they have to start winning Test series - and in particular abroad.

Four-day Tests

The idea of scheduling four-day Tests sticks in the craw of many. But these two matches did not get close to lasting the full five.

Headingley was finished within three, and that with half of the second day washed out.

The ball clearly dominated the bat, and yet no bowler managed a five-wicket haul. Neither did any batsman get closer than within 20 of scoring a century.

So a series to forget then? Other than the emergence of Mohammed Abbas as a pace bowler of great substance, the renaissance of Buttler, and the perky first-impressions of Dom Bess, maybe it was.

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