England may have won the opening Test against Pakistan under the most thrilling circumstances. But that has, by no means, eased the pressure on captain Joe Root. Stepping into the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, he will be without all-rounder Ben Stokes, who will miss the remaining two Tests to be with his family in New Zealand. There are also concerns over James Anderson’s immediate future and how best he can utilise Jofra Archer in a pace attack that’s brimming with an abundance of riches.
Pakistan, meanwhile, will believe that they were the better of the two teams in Manchester, and it was just a case of their batting implosion in the second innings that cost them the match. “We should remember that we were right on top until pretty much the last session of the game and we played very good cricket. Sure, we need to improve 10 to 15 per cent and deal with pressure situations a little better but we shouldn’t be mentally down,” Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s head coach said on match-eve.
Here’s predicting the possible playing XI of both teams and the challenges they face in a match where a lot is riding on the line.
Rory Burns: Rory Burns was tormented by Pakistan’s pacers at Old Trafford, underlining the opener’s grossly underwhelming summer thus far. Going forward, there will not be any let up from the visitors in the subsequent two Tests.
Dom Sibley: Dom Sibley was caught on the crease by a perfect Mohammad Abbas delivery in the first innings in Manchester. He looked far more assured in the second essay, in which he constructed a crucial 36. The knock may have been overshadowed by the superlative efforts from Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. But the manner in which he went about during the second-wicket partnership with Root during the 277-run chase would give him confidence.
Zak Crawley: In the absence of Stokes, the team management could fall back of the services of Zak Crawley, who last featured in a Test match close to a month back against the West Indies.
Joe Root (c): Crawley’s induction means that England’s captain will drop to his preferred No.4 position. Overall, he has had a pretty middling summer as a batsman. It’s not as if Root is in the midst of a barren stretch. He has registered promising starts with scores of 23, 22, 17 68 not out, 14 and 42. However, it’s the big three-figure score has been elusive.
Ollie Pope: After flattering to deceive in the first two Tests against West Indies, Ollie Pope gave a good account of himself in the third and final match with a stroke-filled 91 that drew comparisons with former England middle-order batsman Ian Bell. Against Pakistan in Manchester, he only enhanced his reputation further with another sublime 62.
Jos Buttler (wk): Jos Buttler has had a pretty torrid time behind the stumps in the previous Test against Pakistan. He spilled two chances against opener Shan Masood who went on to make 156. The wicket-keeper made up for those failures with a superlative batting effort in the second innings by scoring 75, even as England successfully chased down 277-run target. The match-winning knock will keep his nearest competitor — Ben Foakes — on the sidelines for a little while longer.
Chris Woakes: Perpetually under the shadow of James Anderson and Stuart Broad and Stokes, Woakes has showcased his intrinsic value to his team with his match-winning all-round efforts in Manchester. With Anderson all set to be rested for this match, Woakes could be asked to share the new ball with Broad.
Hot work for the lads at practice in Southampton 🏴☀️ pic.twitter.com/vtpEncSnXx
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) August 12, 2020
Sam Curran: Considering the conditions on offer at Southampton, all-rounder Sam Curran could just find his name in the playing XI on Thursday. He will be bowling behind Broad, Woakes and Archer.
Dom Bess: The off-spinner may have picked up just a wicket each in both innings at Old Trafford, but he might play a more integral part, especially in the second innings in Southampton.
Stuart Broad: After being ignored for the opening Test of this summer against West Indies, Broad has made a stellar return to the England team, picking up 22 wickets in the subsequent three matches. He bowled England back into the game in the second innings against Pakistan, by removing opener Shan Masood, who was coming off a brilliant century, before returning to pick Mohammad Rizwan and Shadab Khan in quick succession.
Jofra Archer: Jofra Archer has been increasingly used as first change this summer, operating behind the likes of Anderson and Broad. But at vital junctures, he has shown sparks of brilliance — like his burst in the second innings against West Indies at Southampton, or in the first innings at Manchester against Pakistan. However, Root has been unsure about how to use the pacer.
Shan Masood: Shan Masood’s 156 in the first innings in Manchester against a potent England pace attack is perhaps the best indicator of the strides that he has made as an opener. One of the most improved cricketers over the last 18 months, the assurance with which he quelled Anderson, his nemesis is further proof of his transformation.
Abid Ali: Abid Ali was worked up by England’s pacers in the first innings in Manchester, before succumbing to a brutish inswinger from Archer. In the second essay, he frittered away a glorious opportunity, when he holed out in the deep off the bowling of Dom Bess. Scores of 16 and 20 do not showcase Ali’s true potential. However, he will get another shot to make amends in Southampton.
Happy #internationallefthandersday 🙌
Let us know who your favourite leftie is! pic.twitter.com/JVsTmU34c4
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) August 13, 2020
Azhar Ali (c): The Pakistan captain has received a lot of flak for failing to inspire his team, and his defensive tactics in the fourth innings that allowed the match to slip from a seemingly comfortable position. “If we win the remaining Test matches he should continue as captain. It depends on his performance. Obviously, if we don’t win and he doesn’t perform then Pakistan Cricket Board will have to look for someone else,” Wasim Akram was quoted as saying by The Dawn. More than his captaincy, his batting has failed to inspire confidence. Ali registered scores of 0 and 18 in Manchester, and looked terribly out of sorts.
— Pakistan Cricket (@TheRealPCB) August 12, 2020
Babar Azam: Pakistan’s best batsman got off to a splendid start in this series, scoring a sumptuous 69 in the first innings. In the second innings, he was out for 5, caught poking to a Woakes out-swinger. How he navigates England’s bowling attack in the subsequent two matches would go a long way in attesting his greatness, and improving Pakistan’s chances of making a resounding comeback in this series.
Asad Shafiq: Like Azam, Pakistan’s second-most experienced batsman also needs to come good, if they harbour hopes of making an impact against England. Shafiq looked his part in the second innings, before he was unfortunately run out for 29.
Mohammed Rizwan (wk): He has not quite set the stage on fire yet. But with his explosive qualities, it would be a shame if he doesn’t translate all that hype into match-winning knocks.
Sohail Khan: The overcast conditions in Southampton could prompt Pakistan to field pacer Sohail Khan in place of leg-spinner Shadab Khan. He has credited Waqar Younis for teaching him to swing the ball late. As a batsman, he is quite handy lower down the order, having registered a half-century in 9 Tests.
Yasir Shah: The Old Trafford Test was dominated by pacers. But Yasir Shah showed guile and impeccable control to spin a web around England. He finished with eight wickets — four in each innings — to go with a fighting 24-ball 33 in the second innings that gave his team a realistic chance of going for a win.
Shaheen Afridi: The left-arm pacer bowled with a lot of heart, but with no luck whatsoever. He finished with just two scalps to show for his lion-hearted efforts. However, the overcast conditions at the Ageas Bowl could just put him back amongst wickets.
Naseem Shah: Like Afridi, 17-year-old Naseem Shah, too, has not picked truckloads of wickets in England so far. However, he did bend his back and clocked impressive speeds. The team management will be hoping that a change in venue might just bring about a change in luck as well.
Mohammad Abbas: Abbas was really impressive in Manchester. He does not quite have the pace and zip of Afridi and Shah. But his accuracy and nagging length is enough to put the best batsmen under strife. The delivery that dismissed Stokes in the first innings is a fine example of how treacherous it can get while facing a bowler of his calibre.
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