Five uncapped players before the tour began; four bowlers with less than ten Tests between them before the tour; 16 Tests between three of the top four before this Test and just four of the XI that won at Lord’s in 2016 took to the same field two years later; it was easy before the Test began to let these facts outweigh another hefty fact: that Pakistan had won seven of their last 10 Tests against England going in.
Yet it was precisely those nuggets of inexperience that helped Pakistan win an eighth in 11 – and their fifth at Lord’s – according to the man who led them to it. Sarfraz Ahmed made clear to his players before this tour that there should be no fear of losing, and only an opportunity to learn.
“We thought that even if we lose we should learn,” he said after a nine-wicket triumph that will find itself among the more memorable ones in England.
“We had nothing to lose but a lot to learn. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a young team at Lord’s before. This squad had 12  players who had never played at Lord’s before so the way they responded is great.”
For collective contributions and sustained dominance – one afternoon session apart – it is difficult to recall a more complete away performance in recent years. Pakistan didn’t wilt in the field, not with the ball and, in conditions helpful for swing, batted with rare judgment and discipline.
“No praise is enough for the boys especially the fast bowlers who set the tone on the first day, then our batsmen responded,” he said. “You name anyone [Mohammad] Abbas, [Mohammad] Amir, Hasan [Ali], Faheem [Ashraf] and Shadab [Khan, batsmen Azhar [Ali], Asad [Shafiq], Babar [Azam] and Haris [Sohail]. The way this young team has played I don’t think any young team would have done something like this at this ground.”
Though it hasn’t felt the same as 2016, Pakistan were probably as well prepared coming into this Test as two years ago. They had 15 days of cricket in England alone before Lord’s, as well as the staple training camp in Lahore before the tour.
And a difficult win against Ireland, where they wobbled with the bat, where they dropped catches, where they often bowled the wrong lengths, reaped no end of benefits.
“We knew that even a Test against Ireland would not be easy and they gave us a really tough time,” Sarfraz said. “We weren’t up to the mark in bowling and batting so when we played the Leicestershire [two-day] game we told the bowlers to pitch the ball up. And that was the difference from Malahide. That was the perfect Test for us coming here.”
Sarfraz had a better game himself than at Malahide, barring his dismissal off what became the last ball before tea on the second day. There were no dropped catches and most sessions he managed the field well around him. Not that he is a great self-analyser.
“I shout and scream at my players like always, all that is in front of you guys. I got really angry with Hasan Ali because he wasn’t getting a wicket [post-tea on Saturday]. But the best thing is they listen to me and understand me.”