PAKISTAN v ENGLAND, THIRD TEST, Sharjah, November 1-5, 2015
England arrived in the UAE with the aim of being competitive against a Pakistan team yet to lose at their temporary home.
England’s only other trip there was back in 2009 when they have arguably a much better side than now, yet they were well beaten and proved inept to deal with Pakistan’s spin duo of Ajmal and Rehman. Whilst this current group may have struggled on the final day, they showed enough fight throughout the series to deserve a closer result than a 0-2 loss.
England’s last tour here in 2012 included Strauss, Trott, Pietersen, Prior and Swann who would all get into this current side and it could be argued England have never replaced any of them. On that trip they failed to reach 200 on four of their six innings, including the ignominy of being bowled out for 72 to lose the Third Test despite having the luxury of a first innings lead.
Their first ever Test match in Sharjah saw Cook again lose the toss. England have played six matches in the UAE and only won the toss once. Misbah had no hesitation in batting first for the third time in the series and with his side defending a 1-0 lead they had an excellent opportunity to take the game, and the series, beyond the visitors. Pakistan made two changes from Dubai, Azhar Ali replacing Shan Masood at the top of the order and Rahat Ali came in for the injured Imran Khan. England were forced to make a change as Mark Wood’s ankle failed him again, and they plumped for the batting & spin of Samit Patel. They also decided to give Jos Buttler a break, one which he appeared to be badly in need of, and in came James Taylor for his first Test for over three years. Buttler’s demise meant Jonny Bairstow was given the wicket-keeping duties.
Azhar Ali was soon exposed to the class of Jimmy Anderson as he edged behind off Anderson’s ninth ball of the match. Both Anderson and Broad kept things very tight as the home side appeared to find scoring difficult. Hafeez then tried to be aggressive but fell when he swiped the ball to Broad at midwicket and two wickets had fallen for less than fifty. By lunch Pakistan were 87-2 and England had already unveiled all three spinners.
Fourteen balls into the afternoon session and Broad had got in on the act. Shoaib got a reprieve in the first Broad over after the resumption but was caught flat-footed prodding at a ball and was caught behind or 38. This brought Pakistan’s top two together at the wicket, Younis and Misbah. The captain’s tactic throughout the series has been to play it safe against Broad and Anderson and then muller the spinners. But this whole innings from his team was a mirror image of this and it threatened to blow up in their faces.
Broad now had the ridiculous figures of 8-7-1-1 when Anderson returned and first ball he trapped Younis in front. He too had remarkable figures of 7-4-6-2 and it was a constant frustration that none of the spinners could keep the pressure on. Asad Shafiq came in and just replicated what his captain was doing as overs were soon catching up with runs. But his 41-minute 5-run stay was ended when Samit Patel claimed his first wicket since he got Yuvraj in November 2012.
It seemed clear to me Pakistan were handing the initiative back to their opponents. The scoring had almost slowed to a stop and therefore the loss of a wicket was really hurting the hosts chances of a big score. They should’ve attacked England and given themselves a much better chance of taking putting the game beyond them on the first day. Having said that Anderson and Broad were bowling very well and this was making it very difficult to gain any momentum.
Sarfraz Ahmed then decided enough was enough. Two boundaries off Patel seemed to tempt Misbah out of his slumber and the skipper then launched Rashid for a straight six. 146-5 at tea was then followed by more miserly bowling from England’s premier seam bowlers. But as Misbah honed in on a half-century England suffered a setback which would affect them for the rest of the game. Sarfraz swept Patel and Stokes, running to his left from short fine leg, got a hand to it but couldn’t hold on and as he fell he landed horribly on his right shoulder. Instantly you knew he was hurt. He’s a tough lad and he wasn’t moving, eventually leaving the field with his arm in a sling, to spend the rest of the innings back in the pavilion.
Misbah finally reached his half-century, his fifth in his last six innings. It had taken 138 balls yet Sarfraz was beginning to drag his side back into a competitive position. But, as if to emphasise the unpredictable nature of the whole innings, he holed out to deep midwicket off Moeen Ali for 39 when he promised much more. Seven balls later Patel bowled Wahab with one which turned him inside out. Cook declined to take the new ball immediately but his opposite number soon changed his mind or him when he clubbed Patel for two fours and a six.
Anderson and Broad were back on and at the end of the latter’s first over with the new ball he dug it in short and picked up the wicket of Yasir Shah. Anderson then joined in on the fun with the next ball and finally tempted Misbah to edge to first slip where Root gratefully snaffled the chance. Misbah had batted for three and a half hours for his 71 but his team were being buried. Their fate was sealed in Anderson’s next over when he encouraged Rahat to edge to Moeen at fourth slip. Anderson and Broad had picked up six wickets. In fact their combined figures were 28.1-15-30-6.
To have bowled Pakistan out for 234 after losing the toss was a terrific effort. Needing to win the game they couldn’t have asked for a better start. To cap an excellent day Cook and Moeen negotiated the tricky two overs left in the day, with Moeen swatting Yasir through midwicket for four off the penultimate ball of the day.
Personally I felt Pakistan had got their tactics all wrong. They should’ve attacked England and put the pressure on. They were batting first and therefore bowling last, 1-0 up in the series and just needed to bat long and at a decent rate to force England back on the defensive. That having been said, Anderson and Broad bowled particularly well. But some of the shots played by the home side batsmen didn’t help them.
England entered the second day knowing two days batting could well give them a significant advantage in the test. Misbah began with seam but after just three overs he turned to spin and Shoaib struck in his first over. Moeen played an ugly swipe across the line and he simply skied it to slip. Another brief opening partnership and a dream start for the home side.
In walked Ian Bell, seemingly another innings away from losing his place. But he and Cook negotiated their way to lunch added 68. 87-1 was a decent platform and we settled down to watch the two most experienced England batsmen book in for an afternoon’s entertainment. Unfortunately, in the third over after lunch Cook got a thin edge to one from Yasir and was out just one run shy of another half-century. Cook was clearly disappointed, especially after all the hard work in the morning session.
Root then followed his captain having faced just thirteen balls when Rahat found the edge and Sarfraz took a sharp catch low down, one handed. 97-3 and with England’s boy wonder back in the hutch James Taylor made his first Test appearance for three years. Rahat bowled a brilliant spell, 6-4-4-1 and Pakistan were fighting back.
But any fears England fans might have of a collapse were unfounded as Taylor soon looked comfortable and with Bell making steady progress, England course was assured. The pair made it to the tea interval with England 135-3, less than 100 runs behind. Of course they had to factor in the unlikelihood of Stokes batting but if Bell and Taylor could still be at the crease by the end of the day England would be in a very strong position.
Unfortunately, for the third session of the day England lost a wicket early after the resumption. From Yasir’s fourth ball Bell came down the wicket and was beaten by the spin and Sarfraz whipped off the bails sharpish to have England’s number three for 40. Yet again it was an innings which promised more and although in the series Bell was averaging almost forty, there was a distinct feeling of him bailing out with more hard work undone.
Having begun the afternoon with their two most experienced batsmen, England were nearing the end of the day with their two least as Taylor and Bairstow tried to get near the Pakistan total. The home side were tightening the screw at this point as the scoring really dried up. Soon after the drinks break Taylor brought up a well-earned half-century off one hundred balls. The fifty partnership was then reached as the pair were circumspect yet deliberate. They made it to the end of the second day with England 222-4, just ten runs adrift.
This game already had the look of a low-scoring affair and therefore one decent innings or partnership may be all that was required to win the game. We dared not to dream but despite everything Pakistan had thrown at them, England were fighting hard and this was a fascinating game. Many had been calling for Taylor’s introduction for months, finally he’d got his chance and it was a real pleasure to see him grab his opportunity and run with it.
If England were to win the match and level the series the third day promised to be the crucial one. They were either going build a significant lead or they were going to fail to take advantage of the work already put in and allow Pakistan back into the match. Both teams had been going at each other toe-to-toe throughout the series and this was another example of a fascinating duel between two fairly evenly matched sides.
For the fourth session in a row England lost a wicket early. This was proving to hurt them in their quest for victory. Rahat began with two maidens and then second ball of his third over of the day he tempted Taylor into feeling for a ball and the edge was well taken by Sarfraz. With no Stokes, in came Samit Patel, who like Taylor was playing his first test for three years.
At the other end, Bairstow had made a start but was now struggling to deal with Zulfiqar, and eventually the slow left-armer got his man. Bairstow went back to cut when he should’ve come forward and was bowled for 43. During this series Bairstow has shown a willingness and an ability to fight for his wicket but England really need more from their number five in terms of runs.
Twelve overs into the day and England had already lost their overnight pair. Adil Rashid was next in and just as he’d shown in Dubai, his defence was sound. Patel and Rashid were circumspect in their progress and Patel was soon finding his touch albeit during a run-rate which rarely lifted. Wahab returned without success and then finally twenty-five overs into the morning session we had our first glimpse of the day of Yasir. Shoaib soon joined him and just as the smell of lunch was wafting across the outfield, Adil Rashid blinked and Shoaib encouraged a prob forward from the England leggie and Azhar Ali at short leg took a brilliant low catch, one-handed.
The wicket fell so close to lunch the players went off immediately. 285-7 at the break saw England with a slender 51 run lead, but again if the game was going to be a low-scoring one then you’d have preferred to be in their position than Pakistan’s.
Shoaib finished his over after the lunch interval and then three balls into Yasir’s first over of the afternoon and yet again England lost a wicket. What was it with starting sessions for England in this match? That’s five in a row where a wicket has fallen in the first three overs of a session. Patel was bowled for 42 when he had deserved a fifty but he was undone by a legbreak. England’s two premier bowlers were at the crease. Anderson swatted Shoaib for four but next ball was bowled and England were fading fast. There was much debate over what would happen next. Stokes had been seen at the lunch break knocking up and he soon walked out with his right arm heavily strapped.
Broad did his best to protect Stokes but when Wahab came on to bowl to the Durham all-rounder he inevitably pitched one or two short. The three hundred came up as the last pair batted for four overs but Shoaib bowled Stokes and England’s 306 all out gave them a 72 run lead.
It was a lead, a decent one given the performance of both sides on this pitch and gave England a great opportunity of grabbing some early wickets before Pakistan restored parity. But from 228-4 England had again failed to build on a good platform and this was becoming frustrating and problematic.
There’s a saying in cricket you should never judge a pitch until both teams have batted on it. The evidence of both first innings was that there was spin and some bounce but the seamers were proving really difficult to score off. The combined figures for seamers in the match thus far was 81-36-134-8 with a run-rate of just 1.65/over.
England came back out to field with a lead behind them and looking to put pressure on the home side to leave themselves with little to chase. That was the theory but Pakistan’s openers, particularly Mohammad Hafeez, just took the attack to them as they should have done on the first day. Hafeez played a gem of an innings and looking back there was definitely a case for suggesting it was the innings of the series, much as Wahab’s spell on the third morning in Dubai was probably the seminal bowling performance of the series.
Anderson and Broad were again on the money as they had been two days earlier and Pakistan had crept to 8-0 from 9 overs. Samit Patel replaced Broad, whose figures were 3-2-1-0, giving him incredible match figures to date of 16-10-14-2. After Azhar Ali knocked three runs off Patel, Hafeez decided the England off-spinner was his ticket to runs and the first ball he received he effortlessly lobbed over long-off for six. Moeen came on at the other end and immediately Hafeez edged him but Bairstow couldn’t take the chance. It was a tight one, but a chance nonetheless. Hafeez and Azhar then settled in a comfortably built partnership to knock off the arrears. 58-0 at tea, they were into the lead seven overs after the interval with all second innings wickets in hand.
Suddenly the pitch appeared to have changed and the opening pair were making things look relatively easy. The score moved into the nineties when Anderson was back on, but Hafeez suddenly destroyed figures he’d worked so hard to build. A six and a four off successive balls put paid to the 8-5-7-0 Anderson was at by that stage.
The very next ball from the other end then gifted an advantage back to England when a calamitous run out saw Azhar Ali walking back to the pavilion. 101 was an excellent start for the first wicket and one Pakistan desperately needed, but the nature of the run out where the fielding had enough time to fumble and throw poorly and still find Azhar out of his ground, was evidence anything was possible.
Hafeez followed this by thumping Rashid for a boundary immediately after but then Anderson bowled a beauty first ball of the next over to castle Shoaib with a great piece of reverse swing. Suddenly, there appeared to be some light and with Pakistan effectively 33-2 the visitors were fighting back. Younis was calm and purposeful but Pakistan’s progress showed no signs of any let-up as Hafeez continued in his own way. He was into the nineties with three sixes and nine boundaries and the close of play loomed. Broad then put in one huge effort and had Younis trapped LBW from a ball which came back in sharply.
Pakistan closed the day on 146-3 with a lead of just 74. This game was swinging backwards and forwards and was compelling viewing. We thought the third day would be crucial and so it proved with England struggling to gain any meaningful advantage and then Pakistan wrestling back control, only to find England plug away to prove how tight the game was.
Pakistan resumed on day four on the equivalent of 74-3. The game was still in the balance. If England could get wickets early they would have a great chance of a low total to chase. Misbah, Asad and Sarfraz were still to come in so there was still much work to put in. Hafeez began the day three shy of a well-earned century. He’d gone on the offensive and was threatening to take the game away from England, but their lead on first innings was such if they could get him and Misbah out early, they would have every chance of levelling the series.
If things weren’t tense enough England almost had the dream start when Rashid wrapped Hafeez on the pad with the first ball of the day. The appeal was turned down and so was the review. Two balls later Hafeez tries to charge and is beaten by a legbreak, but agonisingly for England Bairstow was also beaten by it and the ball travelled to the boundary for four byes. Bairstow only needed to collect the delivery and a stumping was guaranteed. This was particularly odd as Bairstow keeps to Rashid on a regular basis but crucially he, like the batsman, just didn’t pick it.
At the end of the second over of the day Anderson bowled the nightwatchman, Rahat, for 0 and there was a breakthrough, although not quite the one they’d been hoping for. Hafeez then reached his hundred, off 169 balls. It had been an important innings and the sort of performance he could consider himself very unlucky if he didn’t finish on the winning side.
Misbah was clearly prepared to tough it out against Anderson and Broad again whilst Hafeez seemed to be having a great time at the other end, albeit riding his luck at times. The rate was little above two an over as the 200 came up and the lead was over 130. It was patently obvious England needed a breakthrough. Rashid and Moeen replaced England’s two remaining seam bowlers and the scoring rate rose. When lunch was taken the partnership was over 70 and Pakistan were over 150 in front.
The new ball was now available and it was clear England needed it to give them some wickets and stem the flow of runs. Many feared a chase of more than 200 so Pakistan would need to bat like they did in the second innings in Abu Dhabi if England were to succeed.
Cook took the new ball immediately after lunch and the rested Broad and Anderson were his choice of fare. Sixteen runs came off the first four overs as the new ball flew where the old one dithered. Then Broad struck. The field had been set for a short ball, with a leg gully moving in and Misbah fell hook-line-and-sinker as Broad bowled it full and trapped him smack bang in front. Could this be it?
Asad was greeted by some short stuff and wore one particular delivery from Broad. Moeen then came on and in his first over he got the prize of Hafeez. The Pakistani opener went for one big hit too many and was caught by Ian Bell at long-on for a fantastic 151. It really was a great knock and he’d done more for his side than they had any right to expect. Perhaps it was fitting he was out in this manner.
Pakistan were now 257-6 and 185 in front. Eight overs with the new ball and two wickets, but would it be a case of too much too soon? Sarfraz was next in and if he went on the attack as he did in the first innings things could soon be out of reach for the tourists. But Asad and Sarfraz were purposeful, cautious yet determined. They steadied the ship to guide Pakistan passed 300 as the lead was now over 220 and creeping dangerously towards 250. At 304-6 Samit Patel was brought back on and bowled an over which probably epitomised England’s spin options right now.
Patel’s first ball was a low full-toss which Sarfraz swept to the fine-leg boundary. After he blocked the next ball, the third was swept again and achieved the same result as the first. The fourth ball was again blocked and then Patel produced a beauty which spun past Sarfraz’s bat and took out middle and off. How England had longed for that sort of ball from Samit and there he was producing the goods. Yasir Shah was next in and in something typically befitting Samit’s performance he received a low full-toss which he was able to hit straight for four. Six balls, three on the full which received the treatment, two dot-balls and one beauty which would have sat well in any Pakistani spinners scrapbook.
After a testing over from Anderson, Patel was back into the action as Asad smashed him to mid-on and there was England’s best fielder, Anderson, to take the catch. Only he didn’t. It went in and then out. Inexplicably Anderson had dropped a fairly easy chance and to add to Bairstow’s missed stumping at the beginning of the day, England were beginning to find the blame lay quite solely at their door. What made it worse for the watching visiting supporters was Anderson juggling the chance before it dropped to the ground. It did little to ease the tension.
Rashid then replaced Anderson and almost immediately struck a blow. Yasir Shah slapped the ball straight to Broad and Pakistan were 319-7. Tea was taken straight away and England had a lifeline but the lead was now above 250 and Pakistan’s tailenders now had the freedom to just flay their way. Every run was almost worth double as England were hanging onto the thinnest of thin threads.
England resumed after tea with their spinners but they were never consistent enough to be truly effective. There was always the odd full toss mixed up with some decent deliveries. Wahab and Asad certainly weren’t slow in taking full advantage either.
Rashid hit the spot with a googly which Wahab didn’t deal with but the umpire turned down the appeal and the third umpire agreed. Cook managed to coax Broad back for another spell but things were becoming desperate. The lead was moving towards 300 and then Broad got one to nip back and take out Asad’s off-stump. Asad had, had a good series and was an important asset at number six. His 46 came at a vital time for his side.
Zulfiqar was last man in and five balls later the innings was over. Wahab was run out going for an unrealistic second run and Pakistan were all out for 355. England had 284 to chase down. It promised to be a tough task, do-able but tough. The pitch didn’t seem to have fallen apart and with some luck and much application, maybe it was possible.
England began their innings well, especially Moeen who seemed to be intent on playing the Hafeez role for his side. 21 came off the first three overs as if to ensure our heart-rates remained high. For some odd reason Misbah didn’t hoist Yasir on them and ten overs went by with the visitors unscathed. Pakistan had chased down over 300 against Sri Lanka on this ground a few weeks earlier and England could at least hang onto that particular thread.
During this absorbing test Pakistan had been surprised by the shock announcement that Shoaib Malik was to retire at the end of the game. He’d won his place back in the team after an absence of five years, hit a double century in Abu Dhabi and was now giving it all up. But before he said goodbye he had more to offer. His first over saw him strike a blow as Moeen went back when he shouldn’t have done and was LBW for 22. England were 34-1 and still needing 250 to win. The experiment of having Moeen at the top of the order promised much when he and Cook put on a century partnership in Abu Dhabi, but now when his presence at the wicket for as long was required, he had disappointed.
There was still ten overs to go in the day so a nightwatchman was not called for, and Ian Bell now walked to the wicket knowing he was needed by his country like rarely before. Shoaib’s next over was to England’s number three and five dot balls provided hope but the sixth didn’t turn as Bell expected and as he played back his stumps were ruined. Bell’s career may forever be filed under the ‘could do better’ category with so many disappointments to attach to his undoubted talent.
Zulfiqar and Shoaib tested Cook and Root and this was thrilling, if not absorbing stuff. Yasir finally appeared for two overs at the end of the day but England’s best batsmen survived. England ended the day 46-2 with 238 still to get. Cook and Root were not out overnight and there was at least some hope. They would need to still be there at lunch on the final day to give many of us some belief but it promised to be a thrilling and challenging day. There was much to look forward to and much to dread in equal measure.
This enthralling test match now entered the final day. During the summer we had longed for five day tests and now we had three in a row. England fans approached the day with that toxic mixture of fear, dread and hope. If Cook and Root were still there we could dream, but if either was out early then the spectre of a patched up Stokes trying to bat out the final session could well haunt our every thought.
238 still to get as Zulfiqar opened the bowling to Cook. Two runs came off the over and then Yasir opened from the other end to Root. In England’s first innings they lost a wicket early in each of four successive sessions, so the watching fans were nervous. Root defended three balls and then made a fatal error to go back to one which kept ridiculously low. Think back to some of the stinkers Nasser Hussain used to get and you get the idea.
Taylor came in, and so did the fielders. At the end of the fifth over of the day Zulfiqar got one to turn and found Taylor floundering as he edged to slip and England were four down. 57-4 when you’re chasing 284 is not the position you want to be in, especially with one man unlikely to contribute much.
Jonny Bairstow was next in but at the end of the next over Yasir had him as well. Bairstow tried to sweep but was hit on the thigh bang in front. Could it get much worse?
Erm, apparently it could and we only had to wait another six balls to find out. Patel faced his first ball and was trapped in front by Zulfiqar. England had gone from 48-2 to 59-6 in thirty balls. They lost three wickets in eleven balls.
But Rashid was made of sterner stuff and as he showed in Dubai he was prepared to tough it out. Finally thirteen overs into the day we had our first boundary as Cook came down the wicket to Zulfiqar and lofted him over long-on. In Zulfiqar’s next over Rashid hit him over long-off for the same result and England moved into the eighties. Although, from the performance so far this morning you could accuse them of being stuck there, if you get my drift.
Cook and Rashid continued against the exclusive spin attack Misbah was employing. Eventually after twenty-five overs of spin Rahat Ali was brought on. At the end of his second over he produced a beauty which nipped back and splayed Rashid’s stumps. You had to feel for the poor lad, he’d tried his best, lasted 78 minutes but in the end the writing just seemed to be on the wall.
Broad joined his captain who soon passed yet another fifty. It was a shame to see his players fall away so easily when the prize was so great. It had taken him 142 balls as he just plodded on regardless. During this partnership it emerged that this was the first time these two had ever batted together in the 87 tests they’ve been on the same side. Sometimes there really are some remarkable stats and for a minute it gave us something to think about than how on earth were we ever going to get out of this mess.
The lunch interval finally arrived with England teetering on 120-7. Cook was 50 not out and there was still 164 still to try and get from somewhere. This test series always seemed to be able to excite, frustrate and enthral all at the same time.
Wahab got his first bowl of the day immediately after lunch and Broad and Cook took boundaries off him. Three overs later and Yasir struck. Broad, who’d swept quite comfortable thus far, didn’t quite get this one right and it bounced to Shoaib at square leg.
Surprisingly Stokes was next in, still heavily strapped. Almost immediately Cook was happy to give him the strike. The partnership lasted just three overs before Shoaib was again on the mark. Cook appeared to have decided he wasn’t going to hang around and came down the pitch to Shoaib, missed it and Sarfraz had the simple task of whipping the bails off. Cook had made 63 and had completed a wonderful series with the bat, although you sensed he would’ve swapped some of that for a test win.
Anderson dealt with the final ball of Shoaib’s over before Stokes then swept Yasir powerfully for four. Two balls later and the series was over. Stokes again came down the wicket to Yasir but this one was down the leg-side and Sarfraz had another stumping.
England had capitulated to 152 all out. It was an ignominious end considering England had been on top for the first couple of days. They’d bowled really well to skittle the home side out on the first day, then batted themselves into a position where a first innings lead would look healthy. Pakistan fought back, though, firstly to restrict England’s lead and then with a glorious counter-attack to have England reeling. Pakistan rode their luck and England’s fielding just deserted them on the fourth day. The batting collapse on the final day mirrored some of England’s finest on the sub-continent and was in danger of masking what had been a good, battling performance throughout the series.
Test teams find it difficult to win away these days yet Cook’s men should feel proud of their achievements, despite not having much to show for it. They were minutes away from being the first team to beat Pakistan in Abu Dhabi and in the subsequent two tests were on top for periods of the game. A couple of poor sessions was all that was needed, though and Pakistan won the series 2-0.
Mohammad Hafeez deservedly won the Man of the Match award for his astonishing counter-attack in Pakistan’s second innings and Yasir Shah won the Man of the Series award.
I know I’ve said about the Hafeez innings before in here but when you look back it really was the difference between the two sides. It wasn’t just that he was the only century maker in the match it was the timing and the pace of his innings. England’s spinners were not as effective as Pakistan’s but as in Dubai after Wahab’s third day spell, they were able to bowl at England when they were on the defensive. If that innings had been played by a Viv Richards, or a Sehwag, or a Michael Slater or a Brian Lara we would be eulogising for years about it. Of course Hafeez rode his luck but he continued on regardless rather than change tack & go back into his shell.
Pakistan won the series 2-0 and with winning margins of 178 and 127 runs you could be forgiven for believing it was Pakistan who were dominant throughout. But England competed on a much more equal level than they had on their last visit when they arguably had a stronger side. Pakistan only scored more than 400 once, on a pitch England still out-scored them on. As mentioned earlier Pakistan’s spinners were much more effective than their counterparts but often had the luxury of bowling against batsmen who were on the defensive. Much like the recent Ashes series, the losing side lost because they had a few more ‘poor session’ than the winning side. It made for an interesting and enthralling series, which is something we haven’t always been able to say about from this part of the world.