When the first test begins in Rawalpindi on Thursday, a revitalised England that is playing swashbuckling cricket under the leadership of captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum will receive their first taste of the conditions in Pakistan in seventeen years.
The game of England has been transformed by Stokes and McCullum, a former great player for New Zealand. As a result, England has won six of their most recent seven Tests at home while playing a style that has been termed “Bazball,” after the coach’s nickname.
After a disastrous stretch in which they won only one of 17 tests, including a humiliating loss in the Ashes series in Australia by a score of 4-0, Chris Silverwood was fired from his position as head coach, and Joe Root was replaced by Ben Stokes as captain of the team.
McCullum acknowledges that the low and sluggish surfaces in Pakistan, the location of England’s most recent Test match (which took place in 2005), present a distinct challenge.
Because to safety concerns, Pakistan’s national cricket team has been forced to play the majority of their home Test matches during the past two decades on neutral grounds, most commonly in the United Arab Emirates.
McCullum stated in front of a press conference that “we recognise the scale of the challenge that is in front of us,” but that “that is terrific, and that is why you want to play the game.”
“However, at the same time, if we are given the opportunity to attempt playing aggressive and attacking cricket, we will try our best to take advantage of that possibility,”
This year, England was able to easily win tests after chasing down targets of 277, 299, 296 and 378 because to their new strategy.
However, out of the 22 Tests that they have played in Pakistan, they have only won two of them, while losing four and drawing the other 16.
Seam spearhead James Anderson, who toured with England in 2005 but didn’t play a Test, will have to draw on his 667 wickets of experience to get life out of the expected unresponsive pitches. This is because the availability of express pace bowler Mark Wood has been ruled out due to an injury to his hip.
Root will serve as the leader of an inexperienced batting lineup that will be tasked with facing Pakistan’s new spin attack, which includes left-armer Nauman Ali, as well as uncapped pair Zahid Mahmood and Abrar Ahmed.
– Shaheen out –
Both attack bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is out of the series with a knee injury, and veteran spinner Yasir Shah, who has been dropped after struggling for form, will be missed by the home team in this series.
Naseem Shah, who has been in 13 Tests, will lead an inexperienced pace attack. Haris Rauf and Mohammad Wasim Junior are both in the running to earn their Test debuts.
Babar Azam, the captain of the team, tweeted that “it’s always exciting to play England” and that he was “looking forward to going on this adventure with our talented set of players.”
If Pakistan were to win the series 2-0, they would move up to second place in the World Test Championship, moving past fifth place, and they would still have a series at home to play against New Zealand. In the following year’s championship game, only the top two teams out of nine will compete.
England now has the seventh spot and is eliminated from competition for the final.
After the Rawalpindi stadium pitch yielded 1,187 runs for the cost of only 14 wickets in a lacklustre draw with Australia earlier this year, Pakistan might decide to create a pitch that is more focused on producing results at the venue.
The referee of the match, Ranjan Madugalle, deemed that pitch to be “below ordinary,” and the batter for the Australian team, Steve Smith, referred to it as “dead.”
If the pitch spins, England will rely on the expertise of left-armer Jack Leach and may even put in 18-year-old uncapped leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who was drafted into the team last week after being first named as a reserve. Rehan Ahmed was initially named as a reserve for the squad.
Leach is familiar with the conditions of the pitches in Asia, having taken 28 wickets in Sri Lanka and 18 in India over the course of the last four years.