For all the professionalism that defines the rigid structure of English cricket, Pakistan are a reminder that there is another way to the top.
Modern cricket can feel a world away from the game we all play on weekends as amateurs.
But with Pakistan, there is a certain sense of rawness and unorthodoxy, that I certainly identify with.
The international format is a saturated with non-cricketing elements, which ‘ordinary’ players and fans don’t have access too. The coaches, the equipment, analysis and predictions (what’s WASP?!), the data, and of course, not to mention facilities.
It all feels a little sterile – like the cricket just needs to be played out like some kind of formula that’s been predetermined.
The logic behind the professionalisation of cricket, is to not just turn up on the day and play your best, as was the case 40-years ago.
But, it was for players try to ready themselves for any situation. They work on their techniques, plan ahead, predict what’s going to happen to outthink the opponent.
But England are up against a side which has a similar skill level, but a different approach. They have largely been bought up on a diet of informal cricket, and it colours the way they play.
They learned to play through street cricket, tape ball cricket, and playing with poorer access to facilities. They aren’t a team that have been prepped at private schools, before being sent to Loughborough Academy, spending hours in batting clinics.
There’s nothing wrong with that method – but Pakistani cricketers haven’t had it. Their experience is one of being moulded by their conditions, and learning their skills without needing the professionalised structures.
They have got to where they are with less than the English cricketers in general.
Their cricket is more unconventional and raw; rooted in natural ability, as opposed to honed skill.
It has its benefits and drawbacks. It caught England off guard at Lord’s, and England were able to do their homework and bounce back hard in the second and third Tests.
This series’ over the summer hasn’t just been between England and Pakistan.
It’s also been between orthodoxy and professionalism against a heartier form of unconventional cricket.
England’s rigid approach and Pakistan’s more fluid and unpredictable nature, has made this series’ and intriguing encounter.
In many ways, these sides are polar opposites – in style and approach – but there’s also a clear comparison between their abilities that makes for a compelling and attractive form of Test cricket.