Pakistan vs. England test series has been highly anticipated by the fans for the past few months. With just two days to go before the series officially kicks off, the wait of the fans is about to be over. History has proved that Pakistan and England together have had some of the most famous test matches the fans have ever witnessed. Whether it is due to controversy or due to the quality of cricket, the two teams have always managed to garner the attention of the fans and the media. Sure enough, even though, we are still two days away from the official action, the media is already buzzing with various subjects. The attention of the cricketing world is now on Lords due to a number of factors. First and foremost the match at Lords will feature the test return of Mohammed Amir after being banned in the same ground because of the spot-fixing scandal five years ago. Amir’s return has been met with mixed reaction, with some England cricketers going as far as saying that fixers should be banned for life. The England captain Alastair Cook also pointed out that Amir is likely to face hostile reaction from the crowd which evoked a strong response from the chief selector Inzamam ul Haq who criticized the England captain for his statement. The second reason why everyone is anxiously waiting for the series is the fact that the current Pakistani test team is the strongest Pakistani squad that has toured England since the days of Wasim and Waqar. The team is well settled and features a perfect combination of world class fast bowling with stable and experienced batting line-up. Despite a strong squad though some fans are still skeptical about Pakistan’s chances of toppling England. Keeping all these factors in mind let’s shed some light on the strengths and weaknesses of the Pakistani team and analyze their chances of defeating England on their home soil.
Traditionally, England tour’s have always proved to be tough for the visiting teams. The overcast seaming conditions always pose a threat for the batsmen and in the past even the strongest batting line up’s have failed to cope up with the conditions. Undoubtedly, the Pakistani batting line up will play a vital role in making or breaking the team’s chances. The batting line up is more experienced and stable than it has been in years and the form of Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, and Younis Khan is a good sign for the men in green. However, the opening pair still remains a concern for the team. Even though, Mohammed Hafeez is very experienced, his recent form and the rumors that he is not fully fit is a major cause of concern for the fans and the Pakistani team.
One good news for the Pakistani team is the fact that England pace attack leader James Anderson is not fit for the first test match. Despite the absence of Anderson though the England bowling line up is still very competent and will be another cause of concern for the green team. The Pakistani batting has been consistently performing for the last few years however, one has to remember that Pakistan has played most of its matches on the placid spinning tracks of UAE. Moreover, another thing to keep in mind is that during the 2015 series between Pakistan and England the Pakistani batsmen averaged 59 against the English spinners whereas, against the pacers, the batsmen only averaged 24. This contrast in stats clearly highlights that Pakistani batsmen face problems against fast bowling and that even includes the likes of Younis khan and Misbah ul Haq.
When it comes to Pakistani bowling, however, fans can breathe a sigh of relief as the team has all the basis covered in this department. All the fast bowlers included are extremely talented and can use the conditions to their advantage. Among the fast bowlers though the center of attention is still Mohammed Amir who, as mentioned above will be playing his first test match in five years. The left arm quick will play an important role in the series but it is important for the fans and the media to not make Amir the focal point of the tour. Already the Pakistani media has dedicated enough shows on bashing the England captain and BBC. So much attention will only add pressure on the young fast bowler who will already be nervous due to his return. This added pressure can naturally work against the favor of Pakistan. Other bowlers will also play an equally important part throughout the tour and it is a good sign that along with Amir, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan have also shown decent form during the tour matches. The most important member of the bowling attack though is Yasir Shah. The leg spinner, in my opinion, is more important than Amir and all the other fast bowlers. A good sign for Pakistan is that Yasir Shah has also managed to pick up wickets in the side matches. The only problem that the bowling line-up is likely to face is how quickly and well they adapt to the conditions. In England, only those fast bowlers are likely to be successful who pitch the ball up. Sometimes the Pakistani bowlers specially Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan tend to ball a bit too short. Furthermore, except Amir and Wahab Riaz, none of the bowlers have played any international cricket in the country something that will surely affect the bowling attack of Pakistan. It would have been better for the selectors to opt for Junaid Khan. Junaid has in the past played a lot of county cricket and would have understood the conditions better than some of the other fast bowlers. Despite, the omission of Junaid though the bowling line up is still well rounded and capable. The management and the coaching staff just need to make sure that bowlers adapt and bowl according to the conditions.
Indeed, the series is set to be a thriller and it is pretty clear that both teams will test each other. The strengths of the Pakistani team clearly highlight the fact that the men in green will not be as easily dominated as the Sri Lankan’s and will put up a tough fight against the home side. In my opinion, however, despite featuring a stronger squad than the previous tours, the betting odds are still in favor of the England team. Going in, the home side is stronger and has managed to topple some of the best teams in the world on their home ground in the past few years. Furthermore, among the batsmen only Younis Khan, Azhar Ali and Mohammed Hafeez have played test matches in England before, something that will definitely haunt the Pakistani team. The series might not end with England white washing the Pakistani side, however, considering all these factors it is difficult for Pakistan to defeat England. Pakistan might win a test match but winning the entire series is very unlikely.
At the end of the day as fans, it is important to be patient and support the team even if their performance is not up to the mark. As we know cricket is a game where anything can happen and on the day it is possible for Pakistan to outperform the home side, they just need to stick to basics and play according to the conditions.