Pakistan v England First Test: England Should Get Back to Winning Ways7 min read
Thursday 24th May, Lord’s, Start time: 11am (UK)
England return to Test action after a winter in which they failed to win any of the seven Tests they played. The new head selector Ed Smith has made a few significant changes and England are back in familiar conditions and are firm favourites for this two Test series against an inexperienced Pakistan side. They last toured England in 2016 and managed to claim a 2-2 draw under the captaincy of Misbah-Ul-Haq. Since then though their two most senior players, Misbah and Younis Khan have retired and their 16 man touring squad is short on experienced. They did manage to beat Ireland last week in Malahide but not without a bit of scare.
There is little value in backing England either for this Test or the series. England are 4/11 favourites to win the series and to win the series 2-0. If, and it’s a big if, the Pakistan batsmen can cope with the swinging ball and Mohammad Amir bowls at his best, there might be value in looking at a drawn series 1-1 – Pakistan’s best bet for a win is probably this first Test at Lord’s where the pitch might be a bit flatter than at Headingley next week. A 1-1 drawn series is at .
Weather, pitch and conditions
There are patches of rain forecast throughout the five days which could add a bit of juice to the pitch although expect it to be a fairly typical Lord’s pitch. Spin may come into play on the final day but expect it to be a seam heavy match. The toss will be important – it always is at Lord’s and if England win it and bat first, they routinely post over 400 at the Home of Cricket.
Despite their inexperience, Pakistan have had a decent amount of preparation ahead of this series. Three tour matches and a Test match is more than most touring sides usually get. They could cause an upset. Pakistan are wonderfully unpredictable and always entertaining. Last year, they won the Champions Trophy and although that was in limited overs where they have had more recent success, I wouldn’t rule out a surprise win for them in this first Test. A lot depends on Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Abbas with the ball. There have been some injury concerns over Amir but Pakistan have declared him fit and raring to go and he can be an absolute hand full with his searing inswingers. He’s to be Pakistan’s leading wicket taker although there may be slightly better value in his opening new ball partner Abbas who has had a lot of success in the warm up matches.
With the bat, Pakistan will be heavily reliant on the experience of Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed. Azhar Ali struggled early on in this tour but did get a good amount of time in the middle at Grace Road in last weekends tour match. Shafiq is probably the safest bet for highest Pakistan run scorer in the match but it’s worth having a look at Imam Ul-Haq – he looks to have a good technique and his half century in the second innings in Malahide helped Pakistan to victory. He’s at to be leading run scorer.
England need to get back to winning ways and particularly need to fire with the bat – something they mostly failed to do over the winter. There’s been a re-jig of the batting order meaning captain Joe Root will move up to bat at three – something a lot have been calling for. Root has failed to convert his last nine fifties into centuries which is something he is acutely aware of. James Vince has been dropped from the side after failing to convince and Jonny Bairstow, England’s most in form batsman, has been moved up into the top five to try and help sure up the top order and give a platform which will allow the explosive hitting of Ben Stokes at six and Jos Buttler at seven to shine. At a lower price, Bairstow seems to rarely fail in whatever format he is playing in lately and the move up to five is long overdue. He’s at to be England’s leading run scorer.
Bringing Buttler back into the side as a specialist number seven gives him total licence to play in the same way he has been in recent weeks in the IPL when he’s been in scintillating form. If he carries on that form, he provides good value to be leading run scorer at .
With the ball, England are certain to go with their tried and tested three seamers, plus Ben Stokes and a spinner – in the shape of 20 year old Dom Bess. It’s unlikely that spin will be a big factor and he’s quite inexperienced so unlikely to be the one to take the bulk of the wickets. Stuart Broad is worth a look at to be England’s leading wicket taker in the match. He likes Lord’s and has remodelled his bowling action a little over the winter and produced a fantastic spell of new bowl bowling during the last Test match in Christchurch.