By Jake Goodwill
- England face Pakistan in a four Test Match Series.
- The return to Test Match cricket of convicted spot-fixer Mohammad Amir has been the focus of the pre-match build up.
- England expect victory but will face a stern test from a formidable Pakistan bowling attack.
LONDON, UK – England face a dangerous Pakistan side not only eager for success on the field but also aiming to restore a tarnished reputation.
BUY Tickets for the England v Pakistan Test Series
However the inclusion of Mohammad Amir, who was convicted of deliberately bowling no-balls in the Lord’s Test in 2010, will overshadow the start of the series. Amir returns to the scene of the crime for the first test as part of a formidable Pakistan attack that will pose far more danger than the lacklustre Sri Lankan side that England dispatched earlier in the summer. Amir’s return to cricket has sparked much debate within the game and all eyes will be on the 24 year-old.
In addition to the incredibly talented Amir, Pakistan possess Wahab Riaz, another quality left-arm seamer, alongside one of the premier leg-spinners in world cricket Yasir Shah. Pakistan’s skillful exponents of swing will exploit typically English conditions whilst being complimented by a wrist spinner who excels in dry conditions.
Bowling is undoubtedly the stronger suit for Pakistan. Although they possess vast experience in the middle order through captain Misbah-Ul-Haq and Younis Khan, the top order lacks experience in English conditions. Since 2011, only six of Pakistan’s 37 tests have been outside Asia, and three of those were in Zimbabwe.
This leaves a batting line-up inexperienced in foreign conditions at the highest level. Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez and Ul-Huq all struggle outside the subcontinent. Only Younis retains a strong average in alien conditions. However the loss of James Anderson will blunt England’s new ball threat slightly and could provide Pakistan with some extra leeway.
Pakistan will view England’s middle order as an area of weakness. Joe Root has agreed to move up to number three, after initial reluctance, whilst the middle order is fighting for their place. James Vince and the returning Gary Ballance are both under pressure to prove themselves. Only two of England’s top five have nailed down places in the side although Alex Hales is one good series away from joining them.
The quality of England’s lower order gives the batting line up some rigidity with England’s wicket keeper batsman Jonny Bairstow high on confidence after a man of the series performance against Sri Lanka. However a couple of early wickets could put England in a precarious position.
England’s seam bowling unit remains strong with Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and the much improved Chris Woakes. Jake Ball will come in for the injured James Anderson. Although he is a promising talent replacing England’s all time Test Match wicket taker will reduce the potency of England’s attack.
Albeit this may only be for the first match. England will rely on the seamers to take wickets as Pakistan’s batsman are excellent players of spin. Moeen Ali will therefore perform a holding role. Ben Stokes will feature at some point in the series but an England side without Anderson and Stokes for the Lord’s Test will give Pakistan an extra sense of belief they can start the series with an upset.
The visitors have quality in all facets of the game and will exude pressure on England throughout the series. Yet Alistair Cook’s side remain favourites. England are notoriously strong at home whilst Pakistan are inexperienced and struggle away from Asian conditions. Home advantage gives England the edge and, if the runs flow for England, it could become a comfortable series win. However if Pakistan’s attack, spearheaded by Amir, dominate with the new ball it will be a very close series.
Pakistan have a victory in them but the series will be won by England.