Former England captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton were united in praise for Ben Stokes’ leadership during a sensational Test win in Pakistan.
Stokes once again lived up to his ultra-aggressive ideals as he found a way to force an unlikely result on a stubbornly flat pitch in Rawalpindi, with the tourists scoring at a fierce rate in both innings to buy time in the game.
The skipper then made a risky declaration on the fourth evening, inviting Pakistan to push for victory while leaving enough time for his bowling attack to make their own play.
His gambit came off late on the final evening as bad light threatened to intervene, Jack Leach claiming the match-winning wicket to secure an unforgettable 74-run success.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a better week of captaincy,” said Hussain on Sky Sports Cricket.
“They needed to do everything right to go 1-0 up and they did. It’s been 17 years since England have been out here for Test match cricket and it’s been well worth it.
“On the flattest of flat pitches, Pakistan played their part, but in the end England’s run-rate and heart just blew them away. The pitch didn’t deserve to have them.”
Atherton was in awe of the way Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum negotiated the five days, seeing it as the culmination of their mission to reinvigorate traditional methods in the red-ball game.
“It has to be one of England’s finest ever Test match wins. I couldn’t think of another England side that would have won the game on this pitch,” he told Sky.
“It was a brilliant declaration by Stokes. Even if it had gone against England today, if Pakistan sneak home, I don’t think you’d find anyone criticising that declaration.
“It gave us a fantastic last day of cricket. A near full-house sat absolutely enthralled and rapt. What is the point of sport if not that?
“He is going to go down as one of England’s most significant captains because of the way he is trying to reorder things. Most captains err on the side of caution, Stokes erred the other way and got his rewards.
“All his moves paid off. Tactically and strategically it has been a masterclass performance from the captain.”