Published: August 4, 2020 6:53:42 pm
After beating West Indies 2-1 in the first Test series since the pandemic hit the world, England now take on Pakistan in three Tests and three T20Is series that starts on August 5 in Manchester. Played behind closed doors with no spectators, here’s what we’ll be watching for in this series:
Babar Azam and Azhar Ali’s batting mettle
Having witnessed England’s James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s clinical performances against Windies, the Pakistan side will be pinning its hopes on Babar Azam’s batting. The 23-year-old has played only one Test against England where he scored an unbeaten 68 at Lord’s in 2018. Despite Azam retiring hurt in the first inning, and being unavailable in the second inning, Pakistan had won the match by 9 wickets.
A lot will also be expected of skipper Azhar Ali, who got to 120 before retiring hurt during the first warm-up game. The captain has played a lot of county cricket and 14 Tests against England. In 27 innings he has 799 runs at an average of 31.96. The right-hander has also two tons under his belt, including a 157-run knock during the 3rd Test in Dubai in 2012.
Joe Root and Ben Stokes’ resilience
All eyes will be on Ben Stokes, who was the top scorer in the last series with 363 runs, at an average of astounding 90.75. However, a lot will also be expected from skipper Joe Root, who has an impressive record against Pakistan.
In the 17 innings of the 9 Tests he has played against Pakistan, Root has scored 254 runs at an average of over 61. Batsmen like Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley also have impressive averages of 46.80 and 45.20 respectively.
Pakistan’s bowling show
Pakistan’s crop of young bowlers is being trained under the legendary Waqar Younis, who is among the most experienced at bowling in English conditions. Younis’ experience will be vital in guiding the pace attack that includes Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammed Abbas and Wahab Riaz.
One formidable fast bowlers club! 👏 pic.twitter.com/sUkYMoXBRr
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) August 2, 2020
Abbas, an artist with a Dukes ball, had destroyed England at Lord’s in 2018 with eight wickets. Afridi could also be lethal against England’s batting line up. He has played just 8 Tests but can wreak havoc given some very effective wrist control while bowling.
James Anderson’s 600-wicket milestone
With veteran James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes to choose from, England won’t find it easy to just pick four.
Broad picked a 10-fer in the final Test against Windies and scored his best with the bat since 2013. Chris Woakes took 19 wickets in his last 4 Tests and bagged a 5-fer in the last innings against Windies. A young Jofra Archer will be keen to reclaim his stardom with more wickets.
And then there’s Anderson, who is just 11 wickets away from the 600 Test wicket mark.
Head to head
England and Pakistan are all set to face each other in their 26th Test series. Pakistan has won 8 out of 25 series, while England has won 9. Eight series ended in a draw. Pakistan have managed to level the last two series in England (2-2 in 2016 and 1-1 in 2018).
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (captain), Babar Azam (vice-captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Imam-ul-Haq, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah.
England: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood. Reserve players: James Bracey, Ben Foakes, Jack Leach, Dan Lawrence
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