The first game of the series at Old Trafford provided a lot of entertainment to the cricket fans all around the world. It turned out to be a great advertisement for Test Cricket. Pakistan dominated the game right from Day 1 until they lost a little bit of focus in the second innings as Jos Butler and Chris Woakes snatched the victory from Pakistan’s hands. (https://justcricket.home.blog/2020/08/08/jos-buttler-and-chris-woakes-snatch-victory-out-of-pakistans-hands/)
Analyzing the first game of the series, Let’s first look at the positives and negatives for both sides.
England came into this series as favorites but were dominated by Pakistan for around 75% of the match. The biggest positive for the host is the tenacity that Jos Butler and Chris Woakes showed in the second innings, where they stole the game. Jos Butler who has been under pressure for his batting, along with Chris Woakes who has been struggling with the bat were able to bring out their best under pressure which is a great sign of a top side. Ollie Pope is in good form and the bowling attack as a whole has been able to compliment each other which is another positive.
Having said that, the batting line up still looks slightly thin for England. Now with Ben Stokes out of the series and inexperienced openers, there is a lot of pressure on Root, Pope and Butler to get the majority of the runs. Another area of concern is the form of Dom Bess who has not been able to create an impact in conditions that assisted him.
If the England openers are able to get them off to a good start, that will take them a long way in getting ahead in the match.
Pakistan on the other hand, came into the series with a lot of potential and delivered straight away by batting first under tricky conditions. Opener Shan Masood showed great composure getting 156 runs in the first innings. Babar Azam showed his class on day 1 and young Shadab Khan played a good role as well. The biggest positive was the bowling attack which troubled the English batsman right away as they were able to bowl out the Hosts for just 219 runs. The pacers were right on target and the experienced Yasir Shah ran through the middle order in both the innings picking up 8 wickets in the match.
However, Pakistans batting, apart from Shan Masood and Babar Azam in the first innings, were not very effective. The biggest concern in the batting order at the moment is the form of Captain Azhar Ali who has not been amongst the runs for a while. His captaincy was also not up to the mark, especially when the pressure was on them in the second innings. There was a common feeling that Pakistan were very defensive, early on while defending a good total in the final innings.
Pakistan will want their skipper to get back in form and react better under pressure as a team which will bring them back on track.
Match 2, Day 1 expectations
England will be coming in with a lot of confidence after the incredible victory in the first game but the absence of Ben Stokes will definitely lift the spirits of the visitors.
Players to watch out for
Dom Sibley for England has shown that he has the ability to tire out bowling attacks and bat for long periods of time. For a while now, England have been looking for the perfect Test opener and its a great opportunity for him to take the chance. He definitely has limitations as a batsman but he realizes it. There are similarities between Alastair Cook and him, so if he is able to replicate a bit of that, he can definitely cement his spot as an opener.
Mohammad Abbas for Pakistan has been on target right from ball one. With expected overcast conditions, he will be a difficult bowler to get away and Pakistan will be looking up to him to make early inroads with the new ball.
Probable Playing XI
England having lost Ben stokes, will have a forced change. They should slot in Zak Crawley straight in at number 3 with Root moving down to 4. However, they will have to decide on the bowling combination to pick for this match. Anderson could be rested for this match with back to back fixtures. Since rain is being forecasted, they could also think that the workload for bowlers may not be very high and hence, might consider dropping Dom Bess as well. In either case, lucky mascot Sam Curran can be roped in which will strengthen the batting as well.
England Probable XI: 1) Rory Burns, 2) Dom Sibley, 3) Zak Crawley, 4) Joe Root (c), 5) Ollie Pope, 6) Jos Butler (wk), 7) Chris Woakes, 8) Sam Curran, 9) Jofra Archer, 10) Stuart Broad, 11) James Anderson.
Pakistan might think of boosting their batting with the inclusion of Fawad Alam. However, they would then have to risk playing with only four bowlers, but again with the rain around, it might be a shortened match and hence four bowlers will be sufficient. They might also consider bringing in Sohail Khan who picked up five wickets in both practice matches in place of Naseem Shah who did not perform upto the mark, according to coach Waqar Younis. Having said that, Pakistan had dominated majority of the first match and might just continue with the same team one more time.
Pakistan Probable XI: 1) Shan Masood, 2) Abid Ali, 3) Azhar Ali (c), 4) Babar Azam, 5) Fawad Alam, 6) Asad Shafiq, 7) Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 8) Yasir Shah, 9) Shaheen Afridi, 10) Mohammad Abbas, 11) Naseem Shah