England v Pakistan – Test Series Preview

Just one week after making history as Ireland’s first Test opponents at Malahide, Pakistan hop over the Irish Sea to do battle with England. The two Test series begins on Thursday 24th May at Lord’s, concluding at Headingley in Leeds in the first week of June.

Whilst Pakistan were eventually able to prevail against a spirited Irish side in Dublin, England return to the long form of the game after a bruising winter in whites which saw series defeats to both Australia and New Zealand.

England’s batting in particular was shown to be suspect on those tours, and many pundits expected significant changes to the line-up when new Head Selector Ed Smith revealed his first squad earlier this week. Only one change to the batting ranks eventually transpired with Hampshire’s James Vince feeling the axe in place of Jos Buttler, and Mark Stoneman perhaps surprisingly being given another chance to try and cement his place opening the innings alongside Alastair Cook.

The choice of Buttler raised some eyebrows as he has been picked as a specialist batsman (with Jonny Bairstow retaining the gloves) and has played precious little red-ball cricket over the past two seasons. Several other candidates that have been dutifully scoring runs in the County Championship, such as Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins and Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke were overlooked, as was Surrey’s keeper batsman Ben Foakes. Time will tell whether this proves to be an inspired decision.

(Maybe the ECB couldn’t cope with a six-seven-eight of the Stokes, Foakes and Woakes blokes – different strokes for different folks I guess!)

For the bowling ranks, England were dealt a blow on the eve of selection when incumbent spinner Jack Leach broke his thumb in training, but Somerset fans weren’t weeping for long with Leach’s Taunton teammate Dom Bess picked to make his debut as his replacement. The only matter left to be resolved is whether Chris Woakes or Mark Wood takes the final seamer’s spot in the XI alongside Broad and Anderson. With Woakes still in India warming the RCB bench and Wood having chosen country over franchise by returning early to Durham, the latter would appear favourite.

Pakistan are a team in transition. Missing from the team that tied 2-2 with England on their last visit in 2016 are the now-retired legends Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, whilst inspirational spinner Yasir Shah misses the tour through injury. Two players made their debuts against Ireland last week – allrounder Faheem Ashraf and batsman Imam-ul-Haq, nephew of Inzamam. Both scored fifties in their debut game, with the latter steadying Pakistan nerves on the final day and leading his side to victory. Prior to winning in Ireland, Pakistan’s last Test appearance was back in October 2017 when they lost at their “home” in the UAE to Sri Lanka.

It promises to be an intriguing series as both sides look to build for the future.

A few interesting stats and milestones to watch out for as the series unfolds:

Potential debutants

England confirmed on Wednesday that 20-year old Somerset offspinner Dom Bess will make his debut, becoming England Test Cap number 685.

For Pakistan, there are three uncapped batsman in the Test squad – Fakhar Zaman, Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali who are waiting in the wings to make their debuts. Fakhar would appear the most likely.

Team, match-up, and venue stats

By contrast to Ireland playing their first Test last week, the games against Pakistan will be England’s 998th and 999th tests!

The two sides have met 81 times in Tests since 1954 – England lead Pakistan 24-20 in wins, with 37 draws.

In England, there have been 51 matches between the hosts and Pakistan,  with England leading 22-11, and 18 draws.

Pakistan have not played against England at Headingley since 2006, but did play (and win) a Test against Australia there in 2010 before settling on the UAE as their temporary home.

Stuart Broad (England)

Now established as England’s second highest wicket-taker in Tests behind teammate Jimmy Anderson, Broad has his sights set on a number of landmarks in this series.

With the bat, he needs just 26 runs to bring up 3,000 career Test runs, and in the process become just the fifth player in the history of the game to hit that milestone as well as take 400 Test wickets. He will join legends of the game Sir Richard Hadlee, Shane Warne, Kapil Dev and Shaun Pollock if he gets there.

Broad’s 116 Test appearances to date put him sixth on the list of England’s all-time appearance makers in Tests. If he plays both games as expected he will leapfrog David Gower in fifth on 117 and join Graham Gooch and Ian Bell in joint fourth on 118. Only Alec Stewart, Anderson and Alastair Cook will have played more for their country.

Finally, Broad’s 410 Test wickets currently see him in 14th place in the history of the game. A successful series could see him rocket into the world top ten all-time however. Twelve scalps will see him overtake:

  • Wasim Akram (Pakistan, 414 wickets, 13th place);
  • Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka, 415, 12th place);
  • Harbhajan Singh (India, 417, 11th place) ;
  • Dale Steyn (South Africa, 419, 10th place); and
  • Shaun Pollock (South Africa, 421, 9th place)

Jimmy Anderson (England)

Jimmy has taken 818 wickets across all international formats for England. He needs 12 more to move past Pollock’s 829 and into sixth place worldwide.

Ben Stokes (England)

Making his first appearance for England in Tests since his well-publicized issues last summer, talismanic all-rounder Stokes needs just five wickets to bring up 100 for England with the red ball.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

Despite Buttler’s return to the squad, YJB has been confirmed as England’s gloveman, and needs just four dismissals to bring up 150 in Tests.

Joe Root (England)

England’s skipper will be looking for 157 runs to notch 6,000 in Tests, becoming the 15th Englishman to the mark.

Azhar Ali (Pakistan)

Opener Azhar Ali struggled in Ireland failing in both innings, so is still looking for 88 runs to take him past Misbah’s 5,222 Test runs and into sixth place all-time for Pakistan.

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