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NatWest Test Series – England v Pakistan Preview

England will be looking for some much-needed home comfort after recent winless Test tours of Australia and New Zealand extended their poor away record in cricket’s longest format to 13 matches without a victory. Pakistan, by contrast, enter this two-match campaign on the back of a morale-boosting five-wicket win over Test debutants Ireland at Malahide earlier this month.

Schedule
Test 1
Date: Thursday May 24 – Monday May 28, 2018
Time: 03.30pm
Venue: Lord’s, Marylebone, London

Test 2
Date: Friday June 01 – Tuesday June 05, 2018
Time: 03.30pm
Venue: Headingley, Leeds

This will be Pakistan‘s second Test series in under two years in England but with a young team and players who haven’t played in this part of the world before – there were five uncapped players in the squad Pakistan named for this trip, two of whom were given debuts in the one-off Test against Ireland, the squad is heavily reliant on captain Sarfraz Ahmed, opening batsman Azhar Ali and left-arm quick Mohammad Amir. The English summer of 2016 saw them draw the four-match series 2-2, resulting in a climb to No.1 in the MRF Tyres ICC Test Team Rankings but since then though, they have lost three and won three of the six series that they have played. The wins came against the Windies, at home in 2016 and away in 2017, and Ireland the other day, whereas the losses came in New Zealand and Australia in 2016-17 and Sri Lanka at home in the United Arab Emirates in 2017.

England on the other hand have lost just two of their last 19 series at home and when they face an inexperienced Pakistan team shorn of several key players from that which contested the drawn series, they will know that the batting line-up in particular, wet behind the ears and a bowling attack light on guile, paints a rosy picture to the start of a home season that will see them take on a strong Indian side soon after. Joe Root’s men have a new look from the team that was so comprehensively beaten during the Ashes and then defeated 1-0 by New Zealand in conditions they would have expected to fare rather better in. Some of that is down to changes in personnel with Jos Buttler recalled and Dom Bess, Somerset’s 20 year-old offspinner, in line for a likely debut. But there has also been a tweaking of the batting order with Root set to bat at three, Dawid Malan at four and wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow at five. On paper at least, with Ben Stokes and Buttler at six and seven, it looks a strong line-up.

Test 1 Preview

Since that drawn series in 2016, England’s captaincy has changed hands – Joe Root leading England to Test series wins against South Africa and the Windies last summer and looking to keep that record going. For Pakistan, this will be a Test for the next generation of cricketers.

Though Pakistan beat England at Lord’s in 2016, retirements, injuries and loss of form have bitten hard and they are currently ranked 7th in the ICC’s rankings compared to England’s 5th place. The tourists are expected to name an unchanged side from the one which beat Ireland by five wickets in the one-off Test 12 days ago. The two Mohammads, Amir and Abbas, will lead the attack with left-arm quick Rahat Ali and Farheem Ashraf, who made his debut in Malahide, completing the quick bowling line-up. Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam at four and five with Sarfraz at six make up an attractive looking middle order.

England are set to hand a Test debut to offspinner Dom Bess as part of a five-man attack with a final decision to be made between Mark Wood and Chris Woakes for the final seam bowling spot alongside James Anderson, Stuart Broad and all-rounder Ben Stokes. Wood, who played in the final Test of the winter in New Zealand at Woakes’ expense, is the frontrunner. Going into the first Test, England will rely heavily on two of their most experienced campaigners, Alastair Cook and Root, to deliver in yet another home season. While Cook hasn’t been in good form, for Root it has been a matter of not being able to convert starts into really big scores. Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan and Ben Stokes complete the batting line-up while James Anderson and Stuart Broad will lead the bowling attack, and will be assisted by of Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Bess.

Match Facts
Date: Thursday May 24, 2018
Time: 03.30pm
Venue: Lord’s, Marylebone, London

The weather in the lead-up to the game has been fine and sunny although some wet weather is forecast on the first day of the game itself. As is usual at Lord’s in early season, some movement for the seamers is expected on the first day before the pitch flattens out into a good batting wicket on days two and three as the weather improves.

Squads
England: Mark Stoneman, Alastair Cook, Joe Root(c), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Dominic Bess, Mark Wood
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali, Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas , Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Faheem Ashraf

While the visitors do not have the experience of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan since the 2016 series, led by new captain Sarfraz Ahmed, under whom Pakistan won the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 in England, coach Mickey Arthur believes his is a “fearless” side who have everything to gain when they face an “under the pump” England in the first Test tomorrow.

“We haven’t come here not to win,” Arthur told reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday. What do you think? 

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