Pakistan vs England, 1st Test Preview: Subcontinent test looms large for upstart Bazball
With 14 members of England's touring contingent showing symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting, the match might be pushed by one day.
Tough touring venue
The last time England were in Pakistan for a Test series was way back in 2005-06 when they lost 0-2.
Overall as well, wins have been very hard to come by for the English side in Pakistan and the English teams over the years have mostly struggled in the country.
Bazball vs flat decks
This time as well, there is a lot of intrigue surrounding the series. The most interesting thing to see is whether or not the new style of England in Test cricket, led by captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum in the expectedly flat conditions of Pakistan bears any fruit.
There isn't a big sample size available in recent times about how the pitches will behave in Pakistan in Test cricket. One thing is for sure, the pitches here do not turn as much as in India, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka and the bowlers will have to work hard for their wickets.
The last series here between Australia and Pakistan was a real snoozefest for the lack of a better term, with the first two Test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi ending up in tame draws. Australia showed a lot of courage in the third Test match to win it by 150 runs and take the series 1-0.
Risk vs reward
It will be interesting to see how the high-risk approach of England fares in such conditions as it has the potential of really backfiring in these unresponsive conditions.
Naturally, on flat decks, it is very hard for the bowlers to prize out wickets. While there is a possibility of England scoring at a quicker rate when taking a lot of risk, that also offers a lot of opportunities to the opposition bowlers.
The last test match played at Rawalpindi saw Pakistan batting first and raking up a total of 476/4 declared. Australia were then bowled for 459 and Pakistan once again remained unbeaten on 252.
But the surfaces in that series were also a result of Pakistan missing some of their leading bowlers - both spinners and pacers. With more quality in their attack now after the inclusion of Haris Rauf and Abrar Ahmed, surfaces are expected to be a bit more responsive.
Pakistan will still miss the services of Shaheen Shah Afridi who would have been a handful but the team still has a better understanding of the conditions and perhaps start slight favorites.
Ben Duckett, Liam Livingstone set to play
England are likely to pair Ben Duckett with Zak Crawley at the top of the order after Alex Lees has been dropped from the squad. Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook and Ben Stokes will make up their middle order.
In the absence of Jonny Bairstow who was in the form of his life before getting injured, Liam Livingstone is expected to get a look in. If the all rounder can fire with the bat and even score a quick fire 50, his bowling will always be handy in these conditions.
With Jack Leach and James Anderson being sure starters, England will have to pick between Ollie Robinson and Jamie Overton.
For Pakistan, there is a possibility of both new faces Abrar Ahmed and Mohammad Ali getting a game in the absence of the likes of Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Yasir Shah and Fawad Alam.
Predicted Playing XIs
England - Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (c), Liam Livingstone, Ben Foakes (wk), Ollie Robinson/Jamie Overton, Jack Leach, James Anderson
Pakistan - Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Azhar Ali, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Agha Salman, Mohammad Nawaz/Abrar Ahmed, Nauman Ali, Mohammad Ali, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah
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