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With an unenviable recent Test record, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team arrived a few weeks ago on the shores of the United Kingdom to take part in a total of three Test matches on their tour of Ireland and England.

By Saj Sadiq (16th May, 2018)

With an unenviable recent Test record, Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team arrived a few weeks ago on the shores of the United Kingdom to take part in a total of three Test matches on their tour of Ireland and England.

Ahead of them lies an opportunity to make amends for their current lacklustre form in Tests which has been exacerbated by the loss almost a year ago of two stalwarts, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.

Under a captain who has done wonders for the fortunes of the team in the shorter formats of the game but has so far failed to perform miracles in the Test arena, the visitors will be under pressure to give a good account of themselves once the real action of the tour starts with the first Test against England at Lord’s on 24th May, which is then followed by the final match of the series at Headingley on the 1st of June.

Unlike the Pakistan teams of the past, the squad chosen for this tour does not contain many superstars. At the start of the tour, the Pakistan squad consisted of no less than five players who had yet to play Test cricket. Whilst this list was reduced by two when Imam-ul-Haq and Faheem Ashraf were handed their debut caps before the start of the Test match against Ireland, the fact remains that this visiting Pakistan side is anything but experienced.

Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq with a total of 122 Test matches and 25 Test centuries between themselves pretty much represent the sum total of the experience in batting that the side has to offer. Whilst many consider the duo as the current equivalent of the Misbah-Younis partnership, the reality of the matter is that both batsmen have a long way to go to establish themselves as the successors to Misbah and Younis.

Nevertheless, both batsmen as well as their captain have shown in the past that they have the wherewithal to stand-up and be counted in challenging conditions. Pakistan will expect no less from the three players as their experience will come more than handy as they will form the backbone of Pakistan’s batting line-up in the series against England.

 
 

Amongst the other batsmen, the young opener Imam-ul-Haq, the nephew of the famed former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, has shown some spark on the tour but his newness to the job will be a matter of concern for Pakistan as they prepare to face the likes of James Anderson and Stuard Broad.

This is where the talent and promise of Babar Azam who has long been mentioned as one of the most talented young batsmen in the world will have to come to the fore. He has had great success in the shorter formats of the game but has found life not that easy in Tests with a very modest showing in terms of runs so far. He will be assisted in the batting order by Haris Sohail who has had injury problems throughout his career but now looks to have overcome those fitness worries and is back to his best.

The Pakistan bowling, as ever, will probably provide their best chance of victory against England. Mohammad Amir has just become only the second left-arm Pakistani pacer after the great Wasim Akram to take 100 Test wickets and will be leading the bowling attack for the visitors. There are some injury concerns about Amir but his form in the lead-up to the upcoming series has been good and he along with Mohammad Abbas will look to take the attack to the opposing batsmen.

Yasir Shah’s absence from the touring party has left a big hole in Pakistan’s bowling attack but if the exuberance of youth and the raw talent as exhibited by 19-year-old Shadab Khan is any indication, the visitors will have little to worry about if the conditions give any hint of help for spinners. Faheem Ashraf who recently won a Test cap and scored a 50 on debut will provide the all-round capabilities that could help Pakistan launch that counterattack which is sometimes necessary in Tests. And to underestimate the all-weather wicket-taking abilities of Hasan Ali would be a folly for any opposition too. Declared the ICC’s Emerging Player of the year in 2017, the feisty fast-bowler who can score runs quickly as well, will be hoping to show his trademark wicket-taking celebrations if preferred ahead of Rahat Ali who has looked below par on this tour so far.

Pakistan’s squad against England may lack experience and well-known faces, but they will not lack in energy, spirit and the will to fight. But, to harness this power and guide the side to victory will be the job of Sarfaraz Ahmed whose own form with the bat and gloves has not been ideal. His debut as Test captain against Sri Lanka was a disastrous one in 2017 where Pakistan were whitewashed at ‘home’ in the UAE. However, he has the unwavering support of Pakistan Head Coach Mickey Arthur and the undying loyalty of his squad which could prove crucial.

As with every Pakistan side that has visited these shores, it’s best not to underestimate their abilities to produce performances which appear beyond their means. England go into the series as clear favourites, but England would be unwise to underestimate a youthful and dangerous Pakistan side.

https://yorkshireccc.com/news/view/6602/new-look-pakistan-optimistic-ahead-of-england-series