Ben Stokes hails 'incredible' England after unlikely first Test victory against Pakistan

Tourists seal 74-run win in final session of Day 5 in Rawalpindi

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Ben Stokes hailed the “incredible” efforts of his England team after they secured one of the all-time great Test victories in Pakistan on Monday.

England pulled off a memorable 74-run first-Test win – achieved in the final session of the final day, in fading light and barely 10 minutes before the close of play – to reward captain Stokes's bold declaration on Sunday.

Chasing 343 for victory on a docile pitch, a dogged Pakistan nearly snatched a draw but pace bowlers James Anderson (4-36) and Ollie Robinson (4-50) produced a reverse-swing masterclass to deny them.

“It's a great place to be, and I think it's up there with one of England's greatest away test match wins,” Stokes said at the presentation ceremony after his team went 1-0 up in a three-match series.

“Jimmy Anderson said he was feeling very emotional trying to keep himself together.

“Having a bloke who's played nearly 180 test matches to feel like that at the end of this, I think we've achieved something very special this week.”

Since former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum took over the coaching reins, England have played a highly entertaining brand of Test cricket.

“We wanted to come here in Pakistan and carry on with our mantra of exciting cricket giving ourselves the best opportunity to win a test match,” Stokes said.

“I have got no interest in playing for the draws … we always try to look at the positive option.”

Stokes stood out for his inspirational leadership in the match – especially his astute handling of his bowlers and attacking field setting.

“On wickets like this, you have to make things happen – score your runs quickly and then make some pretty rash and bold decisions with the field placing and bowling changes and stuff like that,” he said.

“I think we have played eight-nine test matches now, and one thing we try to do is focus on ourselves, rather than the opposition.”

Anderson, the third highest wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket, was of no doubt about the magnitude of the performance.

“I feel like it's the best win I've been involved in away from home and at all really," said the 40-year-old. “That wicket was so flat and unresponsive. Today was a monumental effort.”

The visitors amassed 657 in their first innings and declared their second on 264-7, setting Pakistan that improbable victory target in what was England's first Test appearance in the country for 17 years.

The home side fought gamely and reached 268 before being dismissed in an absorbing final session, Saud Shakeel top-scoring for the hosts with 76.

Mohammad Rizwan made 46 and Azhar Ali scored 40 with an injured finger but they could only delay the inevitable.

Pakistan's last pair of Naseem Shah and Mohammad Ali resisted for nearly nine overs before the former fell lbw to spinner Jack Leach and bring a remarkable Test to a dramatic finale.

“I guess it's one of those feelings that only sport can give you,” Stokes told BBC Sport. “The toil of everyone from the last session yesterday to everyone today, it's one of those real group efforts to come out here and take 20 wickets and the way in which we operate today and the way that everyone threw themselves into the challenge of what we had was incredible.

“We've got a dressing room with some pretty sore bodies up there. But they've done it for each other and it's a real sign of our dressing room at the moment. Everyone is doing what they need to at the time for the other 10 blokes around them.”

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, admitted his team had fallen short with both bat and ball. “We were not up to the mark bowling and after they scored 600 we had to execute our plans in the first innings to try to get up to the score,” he said.

“In the second innings we had a chance to win but we kept losing wickets, which is why we lost the match.”

There is only a three-day gap to the second Test in Multan on Friday, when England will have the chance to secure the series.

Updated: December 05, 2022, 2:23 PM