Woakes-Buttler stand comparable to Stokes’ Headingley heroics, says Azhar

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Pakistan captain Azhar Ali felt that Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler’s partnership against them in England’s thrilling three-wicket in the first Test between the two sides at Old Trafford was comparable to Ben Stokes’ famous match-winning century in the third Ashes Test at Headingley last year.

Woakes joined Buttler in the middle on Saturday when England was 117/5 chasing a target of 277. The pair then smashed 139 runs for the seventh wicket and while Buttler eventually departed on 75 off 101 balls, Woakes saw them over the line and was unbeaten on 84 off 120.

“Disappointing to be at the wrong end of it,” said Azhar in the presentation ceremony. “Credit to Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes, for taking the game on when we were comfortable and suddenly the pitch did nothing. They changed the momentum of the game and we had no reply.

“It’s tough when someone plays like that to keep the boundaries dry. You have to give credit to the opposition. This one is not far behind Ben Stokes innings against Australia because it was a tough situation.”

Stokes had famously led England to victory against Australia with an extraordinary 76 run-stand for the final wicket with Jack Leach. Azhar said that Pakistan was patient to get some reverse swing but the partnership between Buttler and Woakes changed everything.

“It surprised me that there was no reverse swing despite the ball being in good shape. We were patient and believed that we would get some reverse swing,” he said.

“We were rewarded with wickets for our discipline, but that partnership changed it all.”

England captain Joe Root said that the team has gained a belief after the summer of 2019 which included a World Cup win for the hosts from a seemingly unwinnable situation in the final apart from the Headingley Test.

“Credit to Pakistan for some brilliant cricket, and the way we approached the day, and the partnership between Woakesy and Jos Buttler was fantastic,” said Root.

“We knew it was going to take something special, and after last summer, it’s really hard to stop believing. That’s one strong trait of ours, that we have a lot of self-belief, so I’m really proud of them.”

Buttler has come under pressure recently due to his poor performances with the bat in Tests coupled with his mistakes behind the wickets but Root felt that this innings showed his character.

“To be able to play as well as he did, it shows Buttler’s character. It made sure that the new ball wasn’t a factor, since he attacked the spinners. It has been frustrating to lose the 1st Test of the series all the time, but I couldn’t be more proud of the character of the guys,” he said.

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