England ‘near perfect’ in Pakistan – McCollum

Ben Stokes speaks to Pakistan's captain Babar Azam after England's victory on the fourth day of the third Test
England have won nine of 10 Tests since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum took over

England coach Brendon McCollum said his team came close to perfection in their historic 3-0 victory over Pakistan.

England completed an eight wicket victory on the fourth morning of the Third Test in Karachi to become the first team to leave Pakistan with a 3-0 victory.

“It’s incredibly satisfying, it’s been a fantastic four weeks,” McCollum told Test Match Special.

“We’ll walk away from this Tour knowing we’ve achieved something very special that we’ll never forget.”

Prior to this tour, England had not beaten Pakistan in a test outside the UK for 22 years and had only won two away matches in 30 tries against the same opposition.

But in their first Test series in Pakistan since 2005, England recorded a fourth clean away win of only 3-0 over any team.

In the first Test in Rawalpindi, England amassed 506-4 on the first day, but only secured victory on an incredibly flat pitch in the fading light at the end of the fifth day.

A tense finish in the Second Test in Multan saw England win by 26 runs, then an emphatic victory eventually came in Karachi after suffering a handicap by losing the toss.

It all came against the backdrop of an illness that had raged around the team since day one of the first Test and was in danger of being delayed by 24 hours.

“Every floor has challenged us in different ways,” said New Zealander McCollum. Some have challenged us tactically, some have challenged us technically and some have challenged us mentally.

“Then I added that the men have been really sick during this tour. To think that they have been able to play the style of cricket in those conditions that we have on these three different grounds, we have come very close to perfection.”

The tour saw the debut of batsman Harry Brook, who scored hundreds in each of the three Tests.

Brook was given his chance after Jonny Bristow broke his leg, but McCollum said Bristow would return to the team “as soon as he’s fit”.

England also made 18-year-old Rehan Ahmed the youngest man to play international cricket in the final Test, with the spinner taking 5-48 in the second innings.

McCollum believes Ahmed can continue his development in franchise cricket – the Leicestershire man entered the Indian Premier League auction on Friday.

“The important thing now is that we continue to take care of him,” McCollum said. “I will encourage him to play as much cricket as possible and get many experiences around the world and play with different players, under different coaches and in different circumstances.

“It would be great if he gets selected in the IPL. Why not give him this opportunity to rub shoulders with other players and gain those experiences? What other player at the age of 18 will get these opportunities? An international cricketer.”

England have now won nine of their 10 Tests since McCollum and captain Ben Stokes took over at the start of the summer at home.

“We all understand what we’ve done is very special,” Stokes said. “Winning 3-0 here would be something to look back on and be proud of.

“It’s a great time to play for England. Obviously it’s a lot easier when we win – the real test will be if things don’t work out. I hope we don’t come to that.”

England’s next Test assignment is two matches in New Zealand in February. They play a one-off match against Ireland in June before they start trying to win back the Ashes from Australia.

“I don’t like looking too far ahead,” Stokes told Sky Sports. “Obviously I have my eyes on Ash and I have little things about that in the back of my head.

“We will continue to grow as a team and continue to have fun, play cricket with a smile on our faces and win as much as we can.”

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