England vs Pakistan 2nd test Preview: Ben Stokes' unavailability can be game-changer as Pakistan look dangerous despite defeat
Pakistan may have lost the series opener due to a session of brilliance from Chris Woakes and Jos Butlter but they still have a quality team, capable of making matters difficult for the hosts.
Venue - The Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Start time - 10:00 AM GMT/11:00 AM LOCAL
Head to Head record in Test series - England: 9 Pakistan: 8 Drawn: 8
Weather on Day 1 - Scattered thunderstorms, 18-27°C, Precipitation: 60%, Humidity: 69%, Wind: 14 km/h
What went wrong for Pakistan?
There is hardly any doubt that it would be very difficult for Pakistan to come back with all their force in Southampton after the manner in which they lost the series opener. Pakistan controlled the match for most of the test, till almost the last session but the rearguard from Jos Butler and Chris Woakes was so impactful that it needed just one session for England to bag the match.
When a team has played well and still lost the game, as a player, you tend to feel what more, if at all, you can do to end on the right side of the line? Or whether your best is good enough to win the match or not?
Pakistan should ideally brush aside those doubts because they could have easily won the match at Manchester, and in fact, they should have. Apart from their batting collapse in the second innings, what lost them the game was the pressure under which captain Azhar Ali and the bowlers came as soon as Woakes and Buttler started counter attacking. The fielders were pushed back immediately and the bowling changes were also contestable.
However, with two matches to go, Pakistan still have a chance and are capable enough of winning the series.
Pacers key on Southampton pitch
The second test will be played in Southampton, which is the same ground which hosted the first test between England and West Indies recently. The pitch did offer some spin in that game, but lesser than the one at Manchester as Shannon Gabriel ended as the Man of the Match in the game with a 9-wicket haul. The role of the pace attack of both the sides thus is expected to be bigger in this game. And both sides indeed possess quality pace attacks.
Ben Stokes' unavailability a big factor
Ben Stokes' unavailability for the last two matches of the series due to family reasons is a huge setback for England and a massive relief for Pakistan. Although Stokes did not have a big impact in the series opener apart from picking up two crucial wickets towards the end of day 3, anyone following cricket knows that a match-winning performance in at least one of the remaining two games was always around the corner from the all-rounder.
England have added Sussex pacer Ollie Robinson to the bio-secure bubble as his replacement.
Sam Curran to get the nod
In the absence of Stokes, England are likely to make two changes. Zak Crawley is expected to slot back at one drop and strengthen their batting line-up which has looked thin in the last two test matches. The English management is also expected to rest James Anderson and bring in Sam Curran in his place, who also offers something with the bat.
Pakistan to be unchanged
Pakistan have two genuine options in terms of changes to their playing XI. They can consider bringing in veteran batsman Fawad Alam in place of their fifth bowler Shadab Khan to lengthen their batting line-up.
In the case of either of their quicks, Shaheen Shah Afridi or Naseem Shah, feeling a bit stiff, they also have the option of bringing in Sohail Khan, who had great returns in the practice games. But, at the moment, it seems like they will remain unchanged.
Weather's at it again
A bummer for both the camps and the fans is that the weather in Southampton is not expected to be great over all five days of the test match. There is a chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms from August 13 to 17 and some time will be lost due to the weather.
However, as has been evident in all test cricket that has been played this summer - even if a day or one and a half is lost due to rain, there is still enough time for a result.
Here's a look at the probable playing XI of both teams:
England - Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad
Pakistan - Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah
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