A reenergized England, led by captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, will play swashbuckling cricket against Pakistan for the first time in 17 years when the first Test begins on Thursday in Rawalpindi.
England’s game has changed under Stokes and McCullum, a former great in New Zealand. They have won six of their last seven Tests at home playing what is called “Baseball,” after the coach’s nickname.
That followed a miserable run of just one win in 17 Test matches, including a 4-0 defeat in the Ashes in Australia, which led to the dismissal of head coach Chris Silverwood and Stokes taking over as captain from Joe Root.
McCullum acknowledges that Pakistan, where England last played a Test in 2005, presents a different obstacle.
Pakistan has had to play most of its home Tests over the last two decades on neutral grounds, typically the United Arab Emirates, due to security concerns.
McCullum stated at a press conference, “We understand the size of the challenge in front of us — but that’s great, and that’s why you want to play the game.”
England won this year’s Tests thanks to their new strategy, which enabled them to easily achieve goals of 277, 299, 296, and 378.
However, of their 22 Test matches in Pakistan, they have only won two, lost four, and drawn 16.
With express pace bowler Mark Wood out with a hip injury, seam spearhead James Anderson toured with England in 2005 but did not play in a Test.
The root will be in charge of a young batting line-up that needs to stop Pakistan’s new spin attack, which includes Nauman Ali, a left-arm, and the uncapped Zahid Mahmood and Abrar Ahmed.
– Shaheen out – The home team will be without strike bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is out of the series with a knee injury, and veteran spinner Yasir Shah, who has struggled for form. Test appearances.
With a home series against New Zealand remaining, Pakistan will move up to second place in the World Test Championship if they win the series 2-0. Next year, the final will be contested by the top two teams out of nine.
England is in seventh place and out of the running for the title.
After scoring 1,187 runs while losing just 14 wickets in a tame draw with Australia earlier this year, Pakistan may prepare a pitch that is more focused on results at the Rawalpindi stadium.
Match referee Ranjan Madugalle gave that pitch a “below average” rating, and Australian batter Steve Smith called it “dead.”
England will rely on left-arm Jack Leach’s experience if the pitch spins, and they might even bring in 18-year-old uncapped legspinner Rehan Ahmed, who was drafted into the team last week after being initially named a reserve.
Leach has taken 28 wickets in Sri Lanka and 18 in India over the past four years, giving him experience playing on Asian surfaces.
Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Rehan Ahmed
Tv umpire; Marias Erasmus (RSA)
match referee; Andy Pycroft(ZIM)
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