Root: Pakistan first Test key in England's progress towards number one in the world

By Sports Desk August 12, 2020

Joe Root believes England's first Test win over Pakistan was exactly the sort of victory they need to build on if they have serious designs on becoming the world's best team.

England had their backs against the wall for much of last week at Old Trafford but made a remarkable recovery to win the series opener after Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler led a successful 277-run chase.

Root's side are now preparing for the second match against Pakistan at Southampton, where they can clinch the series and the captain can claim a seventh Test win in succession.

Yet Root did not feel he performed his duties particularly effectively in Manchester, although the match moved the team in the right direction.

"I didn't think I had a very good game last week, to be honest," he told reporters. "I made a few errors, tactical errors, but that can happen from time to time.

"You're not always going to get it right. I think most importantly, it's very clear for the guys how we're looking to play.

"Those messages are consistent and we're seeing improvement week in, week out. That's a really promising sign for the group, and long may that continue.

"Most importantly, we're looking forward, it's not about me, it's not about how many games we win with me as captain, it's about us getting consistently better over a long period of time, looking towards being the number one side in the world.

"If we can maintain that attitude collectively, winning obviously breeds confidence all the time. And people putting in performances like Jos and Wizz [Woakes] did on that final day will breed confidence in the rest of the guys, too.

"The other players, young batters in the team, looking at those two getting the job done, will think, 'I want that to be me next time, I want to be the one stood there at the end having won the game when the heat was on'.

"The more and more we can keep performing like that and keep winning, the quicker I think our development as a side will move forward."

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    Abid Ali and Azhar Ali each hit centuries to put Pakistan in control on day one of the second Test in Harare before three late wickets from Blessing Muzarabani hauled Zimbabwe back into the contest.

    Opener Abid carried his bat through the day to reach stumps on 118 not out and Azhar struck 126, having combined in a mammoth second-wicket stand of 236.

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    Although Abid was the more circumspect throughout, the two centurions picked up the pace after lunch as Zimbabwe's discipline began to wane – Azhar enjoying himself backward of square and through midwicket, while Abid showed lovely timing through the covers.

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    Azhar was the first to three figures off 198 balls, while Abid followed from his 224th delivery before a mini-collapse from 248-1.

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    Abid would not have envisaged being joined by Sajid Khan to see out the day, but he will resume alongside the nightwatchman on Saturday having put questions over his place in the side to bed. The opener had a top score of 26 in his 10 Test innings preceding this tour, meaning he needed to back up a 60 in the initial encounter with something more substantial.

    There were no such doubts over the 36-year-old Azhar's credentials, but his century was also a redemptive one after being sacked as captain last November.

    Babar fed up of counting his Blessings

    Azhar's successor Babar has generally become Pakistan's sure thing across all formats and was in blistering form during the recent white-ball trip to South Africa. Not here, though, as he followed up a first-ball duck in his team's innings victory last time out with another single-figure score.

    Muzarabani appears to be a big part of the problem. Since returning to international cricket last year, the seamer has removed Babar on six occasions.

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