England vs Pakistan 3rd Test Preview: Well-rested Pakistan bowlers out to draw series as Root & Co try to get balance right
Jofra Archer is expected to make a comeback and will most likely replace Sam Curran in the playing XI. This will imply England's batting line-up getting lighter, but they have to take the risk to go for the glory of a series win.
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 showers, 16-21°C, Precipitation: 40%, Humidity: 73%, Wind: 42 km/h
Pakistan aim to maintain impressive record
There are no two ways about the fact that, as predicted, Pakistan have proved to be much tougher opponents for England than West Indies. They came as close to victory in the opening test match as a team could, without actually winning it. They could then have asked some really tough questions of the England batters in the ideal bowling conditions for their attack in the second test but were denied the opportunity.
As the third and the final test of the series approaches, Pakistan can not win the series anymore but can certainly maintain their brilliant record against England in test matches, by winning the match and drawing the series.
Pakistan have not lost a test series against England, home or away, since 2010 and tied on both their last two test tours of the country in 2016 and 2018. While they would have loved to return home with a series victory, they will do well to keep it to a draw.
Pakistan batting doing just fine
Abid Ali, Babar Azam and wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan, in particular, stood out for Pakistan in the last match, playing significant knocks under some of the toughest conditions for batting. The batters showed enormous heart and the will to fight it out in the middle, something that was missing in West Indies.
The biggest fear for the team before the series was whether or not their batters will be able to stand up to the quality England attack in these conditions. After three innings, they have shown that the team does have it in them. If the batters can put together two more innings of sustained fight, Pakistan have every chance of drawing the series.
If reports are to be believed, the third test will be played on the same strip on which the last match was played (more like less play and more sitting in the dressing room to wait for play to start/resume). This will perhaps be the first such instance in a long, long time and will be a major factor in the match.
The reason why the same pitch might have to be used is because with all the rain around in Southampton, the groundsmen will hardly get time and the sunshine required to prepare another surface. Fortunately, the pitch in Southampton was terrific in the 2nd test and kept everybody interested.
There was considerable bounce and pace in the wicket for pace bowlers to make life very difficult for the batsmen. As Yasir Shah experienced first-hand, there was enough spin in the pitch as well. The likes of Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Zak Crawley showed that it was not impossible to stay on the wicket if one applied himself.
Shadab Khan to return
The only change expected in the Pakistan playing XI is for them to go back to leg spin bowling all-rounder Shadab Khan. It would be a bit harsh on Fawad Alam to get just one inning to prove his mettle after a return to test cricket following a gap of 11 years but this is a professional sport and things have to be considered from the perspective of the team, and not an individual.
With the possibility of the used surface being in play, Shadab will assist Yasir in extracting the most out of the pitch. Khan is also capable of contributing with the bat, as he showed in Manchester.
Jofra Archer to replace Sam Curran
England have struggled to find balance in the absence of all-rounder Ben Stokes. Zak Crawley, after scoring an impressive half-century in the last match, will keep his spot.
Jofra Archer is expected to make a comeback and will most likely replace Sam Curran in the playing XI. This will imply their batting line-up getting lighter, but England have to take the risk to go for the glory of a series win.
Weather has its own game running
The weather in Southampton for the second test is expected to be much better for the final match of the series. That is not to say that rain will not interrupt play.
There are chances of some rain on Friday and Sunday, but both camps and the fans will hope that rain and its cousin bad light do not hold play long enough to hinder the 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, Jofra Archer/Mark Wood, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, James Anderson
Pakistan - Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah
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