West Indies showed hints of a fight but couldn’t go on to make it a series win. Can Pakistan go one step ahead and win a series in England?
That will be the question on everyone’s mind as England and Pakistan get set to face each other in the three-Test series. The series, which will be held behind closed doors in a bio-secure environment, will begin with the first Test on 5 August at the Old Trafford in Manchester, followed by two games at Ageas Bowl, Southampton (13-17 August and 21-25 August).
Going by how the West Indies-England series went, some already believe Pakistan have a greater chance than West Indies owing to their pace attack. England won the series 2-1 but there were occasions, especially in the first Test, where their batting seemed fragile. Pakistan would believe they have the attack to test the English line up.
The reason for the optimism would come from the promising pace attack comprising Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah, apart from Usman Shinwari, Sohail Khan, Faheem Ashraf and the 32-year old uncapped Imran Khan Jr. Wahab Riaz, the veteran pacer who had taken a break from red-ball cricket, is a part of the 20-member probables too. Pakistan are set to have a problem of plenty in the pace department, and selecting three for the XI could be a tricky call.
The spin department will be led by ace legspinner Yasir Shah and also has uncapped left-arm spinner Kashif Bhatti.
While West Indies too had a potent bowling unit, Pakistan will feel they’ve got an all-round one with options for multiple conditions, be it swing, seam or pace. Yasir will be a huge factor too, given he is a wrist spinner.
On the batting front, Pakistan will bank on the experience of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, even as all eyes remain on Babar Azam. Hailed as the one to join the league of big cricketers, Babar has been in scintillating form in the last season, impressing in the World Cup in England and also the Tests in Australia. If he can conquer red-ball cricket in England too, he’d take a big step towards joining the big league while also helping Pakistan.
England, though, bank on momentum. They lost the first Test against West Indies before bouncing back in style, winning two in two in Manchester. Given the first Test against Pakistan is at the Old Trafford in Manchester, they’d believe they can make it a hat-trick.
Possible Playing XIs
Joe Root (Yorkshire) (Captain), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Dominic Bess (Somerset), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).
Squad: Azhar Ali (captain), Babar Azam (vice-captain), Fawad Alam, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Yasir Shah.