The late intervention from Ben Stokes that has kept England believing they can still win the first Test came as no surprise to Chris Woakes, who says the all-rounder is simply the type capable of producing miracles.
Woakes was arguably the pick of the attack during a fightback from the hosts on day three, knocking over Pakistan’s star batsman, Babar Azam, and their captain, Azhar Ali, in quick succession to continue a fine personal run with the ball in hand.
Indeed Fred Trueman and Alec Bedser are the only English seamers to have taken more home wickets a lower average than Woakes’s 85 at 22 apiece, underlining just how central this understated 31-year-old has become in recent times.
But it was not until Stokes seized the ball late on, shrugging off the thigh injury that led to him going into the series opener as a specialist batsman, that English hopes of a turnaround victory swelled, with Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi dispatched to leave Pakistan 137 for eight and leading by 244 runs.
Woakes said: “I honestly had no idea if he was able or ready to bowl. I’d seen him bowl in the warm-ups and go fine. But I’m not overly surprised he can do what he does: he’s Ben Stokes, he’s capable of miracles.
“He’s got a golden arm – a knack of picking up wickets and when you’re in a dog fight he’s the kind of player you want in your team. He’ll always put his hand up.”
The injury to Stokes means Woakes is batting at No 7 here and even if Pakistan can be polished off quickly, England will likely need to produce the second highest fourth innings run chase at Old Trafford on a pitch offering plenty for the two leg-spinners.
Woakes said: “I think we couldn’t have bowled much better getting them eight down. It’s important to get the last two wickets cheaply. As we lost the toss, it was always going to be a challenging Test. We knew we’d be batting on a fourth- or fifth-day pitch.
“When we bat I think we have to try and be proactive. They have two leg-spinners and there is variable bounce. I think we have to take the positive approach rather than stick in and do it the long way. The longer you stay at the crease, you feel there might be a ball with your name on it.
“You look at wins like [Headingley] last summer, when you’ve been written off, and you definitely draw on those experiences. Records are there to be broken, and we believe we can chase those runs. It would be a huge win if we are able to do it.”
Pakistan’s varied attack makes it harder, not least Yasir Shah, after his four wickets in England’s first innings that should have been his 17th five-wicket haul had his fellow leg-spinner, Shadab Khan, not dropped Stuart Broad on the boundary late one.
Speaking after stumps, Pakistan’s spin coach, Mushtaq Ahmed, said: “We are not frustrated. We are very confident. We want 20 or 30 more runs. The way Yasir and Shadab bowled in the first innings, I think they’ve got the momentum now. If we set a good target, they can be lethal out there.”