England were in the ascendancy for much of their third and final Test against Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl.
A mammoth first-innings tally of 583 was the best start imaginable and after bowling the visitors out for 273 and enforcing the follow-on, it looked like a case of when rather than if they secured victory.
A combination of stoic defence from Pakistan’s top-order and poor weather intervened, though, meaning the two sides shook on a draw late on Day Five.
England still took the series 1-0, backing up their triumph over the West Indies in July, meaning the first-ever bio-secure English Test summer was a success for the hosts.
1. Crawley cements no.3 spot with stunning knock
Zak Crawley has had a stop-start summer as an England batsman but after compiling a majestic 267 in the first innings of this Test, he’s made himself undroppable.
Carrying on from a promising half-century last time out, the Kent batsman got off to a confident, quick-scoring start and didn’t look back.
Despite being just 22 and having only three First-Class centuries to his name, Crawley looked in near-complete control, scoring all around the ground against a talented Pakistan attack in one of the best knocks by an England no.3 for many years.
2. Buttler steps up with the bat and the gloves (sort of)
Jos Buttler’s position as England’s Test wicketkeeper-batsman has rightly been under scrutiny for some time.
His returns prior to this series simply hadn’t been good enough, with the 29-year-old benefitting from the selectors’ insistence on picking players for the longest format based on their white-ball achievements.
Bar one blip, Buttler stepped up with both the bat and the gloves in this match, though.
He showed patience and a lot of skill on the way to his first 150+ score in Tests before excelling behind the stumps during Pakistan’s first dig, taking several flying catches.
Buttler put down a regulation chance off Anderson on Day 4 but after his prolonged struggles with the bat and horror-showing with the gloves in the second Test, this was the kind of all-round performance he’d have been hoping for.
3. Azhar Ali silences critics
Azhar Ali has also been a man under pressure in recent times.
The 35-year-old failed to put sufficient pressure on England during the first Test with conservative captaincy and had looked out of sorts with the bat, recording scores of 18, 0 and 20 in his first three innings of the series.
He came good in the third and final Test, though, looking a cut above everyone else in the Pakistan lineup on his way to 141 not out.
His gesture to initially volunteer to open the batting in bad light ahead of his side’s second innings showed selfless bravery and he dug in on the final two days with impressive grit and determination.
4. Anderson goes where no seamer has gone before
There was talk across much of the summer about whether or not James Anderson, the elder statesman of the England team, was coming to the end of his international career.
The veteran rubbished retirement talk prior to the second Test of the Pakistan series, though, and in this final match, he looked back to his best.
He took 5-56 in the first innings and 2-45 in the second, despite the best efforts of his teammates, who grassed multiple chances off his bowling.
The wicket of Azhar Ali on Day 5 took him to the 600 career scalps, as he became the first non-spinner in the history of the game to reach that milestone.
It’s a remarkable achievement from a master of his craft, who, despite making his debut 17 years ago, shows no sign of slowing down.
5. The English summer cannot be relied upon
For all the money that was poured into making this Test summer a reality and all the sacrifices made by players and coaching staff alike, the weather regularly refused to play ball.
While there were results in each of the three Tests against the West Indies despite the near-constant overcast conditions and the occasional showers, rain was the main factor behind the two draws in the Pakistan series.
Most expect downpours in Manchester but things turned even bleaker after the switch to Southampton, ensuring several days worth of action were lost.
If bio-secure Tests are to become the new normal, perhaps they should look at installing roofs at Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl ahead of next summer…