ENG vs PAK, Southampton

Pakistan opt to bat



Commentary

Right, Fawad Alam's long wait to return to the Pakistan Test team is over as he makes his way back after 11 years, replacing Shadab Khan. England make two changes with Zak Crawley and Sam Curran coming in place of Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer.


Teams:


England (Playing XI): Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root(c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler(w), Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, James Anderson


Pakistan (Playing XI): Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali(c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan(w), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah


Pakistan have won the toss and have opted to bat


One worrying aspect in Southampton is the weather which is a cause of concern as rain is predicted on all five days. Although at the moment, it's nice and dry. Hope it remains the same for the rest of the Test.


Pakistan couldn't do a Pakistan of 2016 (the Asian side had won the opening Test at Lord's). They would be gutted to have let England get away at Old Trafford and their bowling coach Waqar Younis too admitted that "It was a bitter pill to swallow". But the visitors showed promise and can take a lot of pride from their performance from the first Test. They just need to revitalize and apply themselves better with both bat and ball. Will they stick with the same two-spinner theory here? Can they stage a comeback and level the series? Stay put for the toss and teams.


10:00 Local Time, 14:30 IST: After an engrossing roller-coaster duel in Manchester, the caravan has moved to Southampton. Hellos everyone... welcome to the second Test between England and Pakistan. So, not only have the former gotten a head start in the series, they've also managed to get the monkey off their back, meaning their losing streak in the opening game of every Test series - barring the one-off Test against Ireland - since 2018 has come to an end. An under-the-pump Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes provided them with the get-out-of-jail card as the hosts scraped home by the skin of their teeth. Just when you thought everything was hunky-dory, England received a setback with their trump card Ben Stokes ruled out of the remainder of the series due to family reasons. Uncapped pacer Ollie Robinson has been added to the squad. But Zak Crawley remains the front-runner to replace the all-rounder in the playing XI.


Stokes' absence a huge blow, Pakistan can bounce back- Michael Vaughan


Preview by Rob Johnston

Expectation and scrutiny are constant bedfellows for Test cricketers. Earlier this week, Dom Sibley said he was surprised at seeing negative comments over the way he played, and in particular the speed he scored, during his hundred in the second Test against West Indies last month. Surely scoring runs was enough to have a day off from all that? Azhar Ali and Joe Root, opposing captains in this series, are long enough in the tooth to know that the scrutiny never goes away at Test level. Indeed, there has been plenty on both players of late.

Root has led his team to victory in his last six Tests - he missed the defeat to West Indies at Ageas Bowl on paternity leave - but that has not reduced the focus on his output with the bat. He is averaging 37.20 for the summer and averaged less than 40 in 2019, the first time his calendar year average had dipped below that mark since 2013. His returns as captain since he took over the job ahead of the home series against South Africa in 2017 are significantly down on what he was managing as a batsman only.

There have been signs, in press conferences and on the field, that the pre-captaincy happy-go-lucky Root is returning after a period when the pressure has looked to be getting on top of him. He has certainly appeared more relaxed. And together with Chris Silverwood, Root has finally been able to impart a vision for how he wants England to approach their Test cricket, something that was noticeably absent during his first two years as captain. The players articulate it clearly. So do Root and Silverwood. They are all on the same page.

In respect of his batting, there were signs in the first Test that his game was getting back to somewhere near its best after a year in which Root himself admitted he had struggled with his rhythm. In the second innings in particular, he handled Mohammad Abbas well - playing straight rather than across the ball - and was proactive against Yasir Shah, at one stage reverse sweeping him for four out of the rough. Although he found scoring tough - he was on 26 for 31 deliveries - he appeared in decent shape all told. He will hope it results in a big score soon.

Azhar is a less experienced captain, having only been given the job in November. He has faced fierce criticism after his side's opening Test defeat in Manchester. While the manner of the loss, coming after Pakistan had dominated the game for the best part of four days, was certainly disappointing, the criticism of Azhar has been over the top. He may have been more aggressive when Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler came to the crease. He may have brought Yasir Shah back into the attack earlier after tea. He could have been a bit more imaginative and a bit less passive. But it's difficult to pinpoint a host of glaring mistakes.

The major problem for Azhar is his batting. Like Root, he is not delivering the runs he is capable of. However, Azhar's returns have dropped even farther than England's captain. A lot further. He averages just 26.06 since the start of 2018 and has made only two centuries in 31 Test innings. Away from home in that time, his form has been truly dire. The right hander is averaging 11.77 with one half-century in 18 overseas knocks. In Manchester, he was out plumb LBW in both innings to Woakes, planting his front foot straight down the line of the stumps and trying to work to leg.

As a result, Azhar's need to make runs in the next two Tests is more pressing than Root's. The England captain's job is secure, as long as he wants it, no matter what happens over the next two weeks. He is also still contributing runs to his side, albeit not at the levels he can do. By contrast, despite being less than a year into the job, Azhar's position as captain is already the subject of intense scrutiny. Whether it should be or not is a different matter. But Azhar knows the reality of Pakistani cricket. He knows the expectations. He has been living them for more than a decade. A significant innings with the bat will certainly help his cause.

When: Thursday 13 August, 2020. 11:00am Local Time

Where: Ageas Bowl, Southampton

What to expect: The south of England has baked for the last week, with temperatures getting into the dizzying heights of the 30s. However, more unsettled weather is forecast for the match itself, with thunderstorms possible throughout and rain forecast on days two and three. The temperatures are set to drop too, making it far more comfortable for the players at least.

The Southampton surface has been slow so far this season and not particularly easy for batting. In the first Test of the summer there, against West Indies, the pitch didn't deteriorate as much as England, who opted to bat first, might have hoped. Given the recent hot weather, and the likelihood that the pitch for this game will start drier, that might not be the case this time round.

Team News

England

England are without Ben Stokes, who has returned to New Zealand for family reasons, which means Zak Crawley will almost certainly come into the side at number three. There could be some shuffling of the bowling line-up as well given the schedule and the need to rest and rotate. Mark Wood, who has not played since the first Test of the summer, is a chance to come in for Jofra Archer while James Anderson may be rested too after a quiet game in Manchester. Sam Curran and the uncapped Ollie Robinson, who was named in the 14-man squad for the second Test, are the options to replace him.

Possible XI: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Dom Bess, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad, James Anderson

Pakistan

Pakistan will have to consider whether they want two spinners, as they had at Old Trafford, or whether an extra batsman is the way to go. If they take the latter option, Fawad Alam could be in line for a first Test appearance in 11 years. The tourists also have to weigh up changes to their fast-bowling line-up. At least they have options in the UK. Sohail Khan took two five-wicket hauls in the warm-up matches ahead of the series and Faheem Ashraf is also in the extended squad and could come into contention. Chances are, however, that they will retain the three quicks who played in Manchester.

Possible XI: Shan Mahsood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah

What They said:

"Captaincy and playing in the top order is not easy. Since I have been a captain, I know that whole lot goes inside your head. But Azhar is a seasoned player. He's scored here in England, so he knows how to come out of these situations. I am confident he will deliver in this and the next Test match." - Waqar Younis


Squads:


Pakistan Squad: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali(c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan(w), Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Fawad Alam, Imam-ul-Haq, Kashif Bhatti, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sohail Khan


England Squad: Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Joe Root(c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler(w), Chris Woakes, Dominic Bess, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, Sam Curran, Mark Wood, Zak Crawley


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