Second Test: Ben Stokes’s injury clouds England’s emphatic series-levelling win

England's Ben Stokes went off injured during his side's victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire).
England's Ben Stokes went off injured during his side's victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire).
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ENGLAND overcame the injury-enforced absence of Ben Stokes to trounce Pakistan by 330 runs, with more than a day to spare, and level the Investec series at Old Trafford.

The runs margin of success is in England’s all-time top five, almost as emphatic as the 354 by which they beat the same opponents in Nottingham on their previous tour six years ago.

James Anderson celebrates with team-mates after bowling Pakistan's Shan Masood

James Anderson celebrates with team-mates after bowling Pakistan's Shan Masood

It means the scoreline is 1-1 with two to play, starting at Edgbaston next Wednesday.

But after James Anderson, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes took three wickets each in Pakistan’s 234 all out, the significant cloud on England’s horizon is the extent of Stokes’s calf injury, likely to become clear only after he undergoes MRI scans on Tuesday.

The all-rounder pulled up mid-over on the fourth afternoon, his first England appearance since he limped out of the action at Headingley in May and subsequently needed surgery on his left knee.

This time it was his right leg that gave way, leaving England to fire on four rather than five cylinders after Alastair Cook had left them 185 overs to bowl out Pakistan.

England's Joe Root, left, and captain Alistair Cook walk off after declaring during day four of the Second Test

England's Joe Root, left, and captain Alistair Cook walk off after declaring during day four of the Second Test

The captain, who courted controversy by failing to enforce the follow-on despite a mammoth lead of 391 the previous afternoon, hit an unbeaten 76 alongside Yorkshire’s Joe Root (71no) in a rollicking stand of 105 before declaring on 173-1 and setting Pakistan an entirely notional world-record 565 to win.

The relevant equation was not that, of course, but the task of taking 10 wickets inside five and a half sessions.

It took less than five overs, in fact, before Anderson made the first incision when he yet again saw off opener Shan Masood cheaply.

Since the tall left-hander first faced England’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Abu Dhabi last October, he has been out to him six times. The latest was a tame edge pushing forward to one slanted across him.

It was Anderson who struck again too before lunch, No 3 Azhar Ali playing across a straight one to be lbw.

Pakistan would have been 32-3, had Cook taken a regulation slip catch off Stokes when Younus Khan was on three.

It was a more significant setback for England when Stokes limped out of the attack, but they soon had two more wickets to celebrate – both from Moeen.

The off-spinner, completing Stokes’s unfinished over, was instantly struck over long-on for six by Mohammad Hafeez.

But he got his revenge when the opener fell bat-pad, eight short of his 50, and then Younus’s attempt to hit Moeen for another six resulted instead in a running boundary catch for Alex Hales.

It was a bold option taken by the veteran middle-order batsman, with the man back on the fence, and one he paid for when he failed to clear.

A bigger blow still was to follow for Pakistan when their captain Misbah-ul-Haq, the only substance in their misfiring first innings, succumbed to a slower full-length ball from Woakes, which he contrived to squeeze back on to his stumps from outside off.

Woakes doubled up immediately after tea, Sarfraz Ahmed caught down the leg-side off his glove.

England appeared to be on the last lap already and so it proved as Anderson pinned the only remaining frontline batsman Asad Shafiq lbw, and then man of the match Root chipped in with a wicket-maiden in his solitary over as Pakistan subsided.

Cook had begun his vindication for spurning the follow-on when, in the first over of a cloudy and much fresher day, he took the opportunity against a weary attack to complete his fastest Test 50 when he cover-drove his 55th ball for four off Rahat Ali.

Root was in even more of a hurry, pulling Rahat for successive fours in an over that cost 14 as the Yorkshireman raced past 300 runs in the match.

After a favoured slog-sweep from a Yasir Shah full toss for his seventh four, Root had hit four of his seven boundaries in the space of six balls and was past his 50 in only 38 deliveries.

That was only six more than Ian Botham’s fastest English Test 50, and Root upped the ante to put himself on course to better Stokes’s national record 85-ball hundred.

Nine overs had brought 75 runs, and a second century in the match would have taken Cook’s record-breaking career tally to 30.

But for the collective good, he rightly called time before any more personal achievements became too tempting.