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Amir must win it for Pakistan

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Mohammad_Amir_Pakistan_cricketThis England tour is one stiff challenge for Pakistan, made even tougher vis-a-vis their controversial 2010 tour. This pace battery isn't as gifted as the one back then, but is certainly capable of wrecking havoc.

You scan through the Pakistan squad and all your attention is held by one name. No prizes for guessing - the talismanic Mohammad Amir.

Amir’s already eventful life journey will go full circle as he makes a Test comeback at the very place the world came crashing down on him. He sinned at the Mecca of cricket and he has to make amends at that very venue.

One thing is pretty clear. He's still got THAT sting and that X-factor about him. He is Pakistan’s answer to the Lordly Jimmy Anderson.

Having said that, he will find it extremely difficult to erase those memories of 2010. The English crowds won't make it any easier for him. He will, without a doubt, face a seriously stern test of mental toughness.

If (and that's a BIG IF) he manages to overcome his demons, the English batters will have their work cut out.

I look forward to seeing how Wahab Riaz fares as well. He's such an impact bowler but hasn't had the best time of late. He's key to his team’s success, particularly because two of the four Tests will be played on the relatively flatter surfaces at Lord’s and Birmingham. Moreover, he is the only bowler in this squad, apart from Amir, with previous English experience - having played 2 Tests in 2010 to go along with a few county stints.

Misbah would do well to let him loose and simply ask him to blast the speedometer. There are enough bowlers to bowl line-and-length - Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali and Imran Khan.

As far as the spin department goes, Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar ooze quality but are untested in unhelpful conditions. That England are allergic to leg-spin should boost Shah’s confidence. He has, anyway, shown himself to be a fearless character. For the record, Shane Warne doesn't rave about chickens - and Shah is no chicken.

Now, coming to what should bother Misbah the most; something that has bothered him forever irrespective of the opposition or the venue: his team’s batting strength, or the lack of it.

Azhar Ali is the only proper batsman surviving from the 2010 touring party. He scored two fifties on that tour including a 92 not out which helped Pakistan seal a historic triumph in the third Test at The Oval.

The experienced pro Younis Khan has fond memories of England - a place where he averages over 52. He was made to miss Pakistan’s previous tour of England due to an indefinite ban. This time around, he leads the batting lineup with more than 9100 runs under his belt. What’s more, he's in red-hot form - standing sixth among the leading run scorers in last two years (having grossed 1717 runs at 68.68).

He, along with Misbah, will have to shoulder the bulk of batting duties. As the skipper mentioned before leaving for London, amassing 350 odd runs each time will be key to being in the game.

Inexperience will nevertheless haunt the batters. Pakistan have made only one tour outside of the subcontinent in the last five years and got smashed in that tour, where they were whitewashed 0-3 by South Africa.

Lastly, I hope Pakistan have packed a fair bit of luck prior to flying. The kind of form Jimmy Anderson is in at the moment, they will need more than just skill and application to survive. And even though the World No. 1 bowler will miss the first Test, they still have to deal with World No. 3 Stuart Broad who is licking his lips.

Meanwhile, I do believe that England will be made to sweat. Pakistan’s bowling - both pace and spin - is capable enough to make up for their batting deficiencies. A keenly competed Test series is something cricket lovers like me are starving for, and this series could be just that.

 

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