KARACHI: The stage is all set as Pakistan and England gear up for their two-match series at the home of cricket, Lord’s, beginning on May 24.
Former Pakistan cricketers think the visitors can rise up to the challenge if they adopt a street-smart approach against England.
An inexperienced side led by Sarfraz Ahmed, which won the solitary Test against Ireland and did well enough in the practice matches, should be realistically optimistic about their chances ahead of the first Test.
Salahuddin, who played five Test matches for Pakistan, believes that youngsters can play a key role in the two-Test match series, with players such as Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Imamul Haq, Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali and Fakhar Zaman given opportunity to prove themselves.
Imam, the nephew of Pakistan’s cricket team chief selector Inzamamul Haq, scored a brilliant half-century against the run of play after Pakistan were in trouble against Ireland; having lost three early wickets for just 14 runs while chasing 160 on the final day of the Test. Imam and Babar Azam combined to form a 136-run partnership that steered Pakistan to a five-wicket win.
“They performed well against Ireland and in the practice matches which were expected to be played under tougher conditions. Although, they played against a new Test nation, they also had some experienced players who were playing county cricket too,” said Salahuddin Sallu while talking to The Express Tribune.
Ashraf and Shadab, meanwhile, batted really well in the first innings when Pakistan were struggling on 159-6. They came together at a crucial juncture and took the team to a decent total of 310 with an unbeaten 115-run partnership.
Shadab earlier bagged a 10-wicket-haul against Northamptonshire to prove that he can fill in for the injured Yasir Shah.
“Ashraf, Shadab and Imam have proved themselves against Ireland, while the other young players including Zaman, Ali and Salahuddin can also do well against England but Pakistan is likely to keep the same team that has been performing well,” said Sallu.
‘Batsmen will find it tough’
Jalaluddin, who claimed the first-ever hat-trick in ODI cricket, believes that Pakistani batsmen will find it difficult to tackle England’s fast-bowlers due to the conditions and their fantastic track record at home.
England have two effective pace bowlers in James Anderson and Stuart Broad to lead the attack. Anderson, in his 13 appearances against Pakistan since 2010, has taken 54 wickets at an average of 18.50, while Broad has 47 wickets to his credit in 14 matches against the Green Shirts.
“The conditions are going to be slightly different for the team against England as they have always put the visiting sides in trouble on their home ground. It will be tough for Pakistani batting line to tackle England’s fast bowlers,” said Jalaluddin.
The former fast-bowler was happy to see Mohammad Amir fit for the important encounter, coupled with the good form of Muhammad Abbas, in the lead up to the series.
“It is good to hear that Amir has recovered and will be available for the match against England as fast bowlers will play a key role against England. Abbas is doing well and with his pace and variety he can also trouble the English batsmen” said Jalaluddin.
Capitalise on Root’s inexperience, advises Razzaq
Former all-rounder Abdul Razzaq feels that Pakistan can capitalise on the fact that England will be playing under its new captain Joe Root. Root, who has led England in just four Test series including a 4-0 defeat against Australia, will be under a bit pressure which can help Pakistan’s cause.
“They will be playing under a new captain and that is the area where Pakistan can take advantage as they have experienced players like Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz himself who can put give the side a strong spine, while the young Imam will be plus point,” said Razzaq.
Razzaq also wanted the team to perform well as a unit, while also looking forward to Imam’s performance at the top of the order in the series.
“All eyes will be on Imam as he will have to perform against England in the same way that he did against Ireland and in the practice matches. They will also need to stick with the aggressive approach and play as one unit.”
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