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'Home away from Home' :Headingley 2nd Test Preview - England v Pakistan

Pakistan team arrives in Leeds for the 2nd Test, happy in the knowledge to take the field, in front of a large Pakistani contingent on Friday. The fanatic support, at Headingley, is largely made up of the youth from Bradford, a town 12 miles from Leeds, that is often referred to as ‘Mini Pakistan’. Following their win, in the first Test at Lord’s, the Pakistan team would have gone into this game unchanged but for the fractured  wrist suffered by its promising middle order batsman Babar Azam, who had to retire hurt on 68. His injury opens the door for another batsman and the choice is likely to be between Usman Salahuddin or Sami Aslam.

Historically, Headingley has not been a happy hunting ground for Pakistan,

Growing up in the 1970s, one recalls, it was nigh impossible for players from the sub-continent to play their natural attacking game and excel in the conditions. The English bowlers, on a typical seaming wicket and overcast conditions, would simply strangle the Pakistan batting ‘stars’, regardless of their county cricket reputation. There are a number of defeats and near misses, at Headingley, that continue to haunt, both the players and its supporters. The 25-run loss in 1971, falling short by 14 runs in the 1979 World Cup and a narrow three-wicket defeat in 1982, are prime examples of nerves taking over for the Pakistan team, still in its evolutionary phase in terms of learning ‘the art of winning’.

The exception to this poor record being two memorable Test victories. The first being an innings and 18 run victory for Pakistan, in 1987, a result that led to their first ever series win in England. Mind you, it required the presence of some of their finest talent – skipper Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir, Salim Malik & Wasim Akram – to finally turn the tide. In 2010, arriving to play on a neutral venue, its pace attack bowled out Australia for mere 88 runs on the opening day and went on to record a three-wicket win, amidst a great deal of anxiety. Now much older and wiser, Mohammed Amir, one of only two survivors of the game, alongside batsman Azhar Ali, can draw inspiration from his 7 wickets in the match and a joint Man of the Match award, he shared with Shane Watson.

The present Pakistan squad will not have been burdened by the sheer weight of history for their current form and their adaptability in English conditions is what counts for this contest at Headingley.

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