England and their first game hoodoo. It’s gained quite a bit of limelight in the recent past. Before the Pakistan Test series started, they had lost the first game in eight out of their last 10 Test series and hadn’t won the first Test in the last five series. That almost became six but Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes came to save the day and game for the hosts.
Pakistan were expected to push England much more than West Indies and they did. After all, they are the only team to have not lost a Test series in England since 2010. Right from the start of the game, Pakistan were on and looked in commanding positions throughout the Test match. However, the Azhar Ali-led side didn’t have that one final push to get the job done.
Shan Masood and the bowlers shone but Pakistan couldn’t capitalize on the key moments. In fact, they will be kicking themselves for not being 1-0 despite gaining a 107-run lead in the first innings and reducing England to 117/5 chasing 277 in the fourth innings. It also extended Pakistan’s recent misery outside Asia. It was their seventh successive loss outside Asia – two in England (one in 2018 and one in 2020), three in South Africa (2018-19) and two in Australia (2019).
Meanwhile, England’s come-from-behind win in the first Test was a dramatic one. From being down and out after the first innings or even in the fourth-innings chase, they shot back up and found a way out. Their bowlers fought hard in the second innings to skittle Pakistan out for 169 before Buttler and Woakes stitched together a counter-attacking and match-winning stand to help England win by three wickets.
The action now moves to Southampton for the last two Tests and England will be looking to seal the series in this game and register their first Test series win over Pakistan since 2010.
TEAM NEWS – England
England have one hole to fill. Ben Stokes is unavailable for the rest of the series due to family reasons. Thus, England look all set to continue the five-bowler combination. Zak Crawley is likely to replace Stokes and that means Root will be back at his preferred No. 4 slot. Root has got starts in every innings and has scores of 23, 22, 17, 68 not out, 14 and 42 (latest). He will look to get rid of this scratchy form. Ollie Pope seems to be in top form and is striking the ball well. He will continue to bat at No. 5.
Meanwhile, there will be concerns over the pace attack. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes have played three Test matches in a row. However, they look set to start once again in Southampton. James Anderson has looked off-colour in this summer and returned with just one wicket across two innings in the first Test. With an eye on his fitness, he might sit out in this game. Sam Curran could replace the Lancashire veteran. Jofra Archer has blown hot, blown cold and has played three Test matches. He might also be rested for this Test match and Mark Wood might get a game.
Probable XI: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer/Mark Wood, James Anderson/Sam Curran
TEAM NEWS – Pakistan
It’ll be interesting to see how Pakistan react to this loss and what it will do to their confidence. There shouldn’t be much tinkering either way. The top six is likely to remain the same and Azhar Ali desperately needs some runs. His last half-century away from home (Pakistan/UAE) came back in 2018 when Pakistan beat England at Lord’s. Since then, in 15 innings, the Pakistan Test skipper has crossed 20 just twice.
Pakistan’s bowling attack might be the one in question here. Not for their performance but how they pull up as the turnaround is not too big between the two games. However, they might retain the pace attack and give them another go.
Another big question might be the inclusion of Shadab Khan. He batted well in the first innings but considering that he bowled just 11.3 overs across the two innings, Pakistan could mull over bolstering their batting. Fawad Alam has been in fine form in the domestic cricket and could well slot in at No. 6.
Probable XI: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shadab Khan/Fawad Alam, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah