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England vs Pakistan Preview: The battle of the bowlers

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With England taking a convincing victory in the Super Series against Sri Lanka, winning the Test series, the ODI series and the one off T20I, Pakistan arrive in England ready to face a team running incredibly high on confidence.

Pakistan, however, should be an altogether different test than Sri Lanka were. With the first Test match so close, we take a look at the key talking points of the series.

James_Anderson_England_Jimmy_cricketEngland’s Chance for Glory

Although an England vs Pakistan series may not have the glamour of an Ashes, anticipation is still high. That’s because if England win this series – as many hope they will – then they will hold all nine Test trophies at the same time.

England have beaten all of the other eight nations they have faced. Pakistan face the final hurdle of a challenge that began in 2003, when England last faced Zimbabwe. Back then Nasser Hussain’s men won the series 2-0, with Mark Butcher winning the man of the match award in the second Test. Both have since swapped the shirt for the comfort of the Sky commentary box.

So, what key battles will define the contest?

Who Bats at Three?

England go into the series with a relatively settled side. Alex Hales has recovered from a back problem. There will be changes, though; some welcome, some unwelcome.

James Anderson will miss the first Test due to his shoulder injury. Ben Stokes has been asked to continue his rehabilitation from a knee injury through practice by playing for his county side. But with Finn, Broad, Woakes and the as yet uncapped Ball in the squad, England doesn’t need to worry much.

After a below average series in South Africa and a poor series against Sri Lanka, Nick Compton has announced that he is taking a break from cricket, freeing up a spot at number three in the batting order.

With no natural number three ready to step in, Joe Root has been pushed up to three, with Vince moving up one place and Ballance sliding back in to the middle order.

While England are undoubtedly keen to get Buttler involved in all three formats of the game, his groin injury and lack of red ball experience have counted against him.

Mohammad_Amir_Pakistan_cricketWith a middle order of Root, Vince, Ballance, Bairstow, and Ali, fireworks are expected from an aggressive England side, but they are going to be tested coming up against an excellent Pakistani bowling attack comprising of the raw, hostile pace of Wahab Riaz, the dazzling leg spin of Yasir Shah which caused multiple issues for the English in the UAE and of course, making his return to test cricket, Mohammad Amir.  

Dealing with the Pace (and Controversy) of Amir

Due to his recent return from a five-year ban for spot fixing (which occurred the last time Pakistan were in England), Amir will provide fireworks both on and off the field. Many still believe that Amir should have served a lifetime ban from the sport, and England captain Alastair Cook has already warned Amir to expect a hostile reception.

However, Amir is likely to let the ball do the talking. In a recent warm up match against Somerset, he appeared intent on showing the world how good he really is. He may have had five of his best years taken away from him, but he now looks back to his best. If he can get the ball to talk like his did at Taunton and during the ill-fated tour of 2010, his pace and swing really could cause England’s top order problems.

One thing’s for certain: England’s top order vs Amir and Amir vs the crowd look set to be two fascinating contests and could be battles that define the series.

Stuart_Broad_England_cricketCan Pakistan Handle the Magic of Anderson and Broad?

In the overcast conditions of May up at Headingley and Durham, Sri Lanka had no answer to the magic of Anderson and Broad. Bowling in the high 80s, Anderson is now bowling quicker than ever before, and swinging the ball late. But will conditions be as favourable in August?

With an experienced batting order featuring Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali, Pakistan will be an altogether different prospect and a far more disciplined unit. Boasting over 250 test caps and over 20,000 test runs between them, this line-up will no doubt prove to be a far sterner test of the English bowling as opposed to the largely inexperienced Sri Lankan batsmen.

As a result, the skill and persistence of Anderson and Broad will be vital to delivering a series victory. In home conditions and with a Dukes ball, the bowlers ranked 1st and 3rd in the world should fancy their chances of picking up scalps; especially if the skies are as overcast as they usually are in a typically English summer. Asian teams have historically struggled in English conditions, so the Pakistani batsmen will have to be at their best to ensure that they can reach competitive totals.

To conclude, the England vs Pakistan series looks full of great tactical battles. With the final Test trophy on the line, England have much to play for. The series looks set to be defined by how well England’s batsmen can play the Pakistani bowling attack (Mohammad Amir in particular) and how well they bowl at a more resilient and far more experienced top order that will be a stronger test than Sri Lanka’s.

With home advantage, you’d expect an England win, but a tight and competitive series looks near guaranteed.

(Tushar is a UK-based writer who works for Talent Cricket)

 

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Tushar is a UK-based writer who works for Talent Cricket (talentcricket.co.uk), a passionate India ...

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