Eng­land wary of an­other slow start against Pak

Hindustan Times (Gurugram) - - Htsport - Sports­desk@hin­dus­tan­times.com

MANCH­ESTER: Eng­land know an­other slug­gish start to a Test cam­paign could prove costly as they go in search of a first se­ries win over Pak­istan in a decade. Wed­nes­day sees a three-match con­test get un­der­way with the first Test at Old Traf­ford. And while Eng­land can point to re­cent se­ries vic­to­ries over most ri­vals, their last such suc­cess against Pak­istan was in 2010.

That cam­paign, how­ever, was over­shad­owed by a ‘spot-fix­ing’ scan­dal at Lord’s which led to bans and jail terms for then Pak­istan cap­tain Sal­man Butt as well as pace­men Mo­ham­mad Asif and Mo­ham­mad Amir. Eng­land have lost the first Test in eight of their last 10 se­ries —in­clud­ing dur­ing last month’s 2-1 win over the West Indies that marked in­ter­na­tional cricket’s re­turn from the coro­n­avirus lock­down.

It is a stat they are all aware of, with in-form Eng­land pace­men Chris Woakes ad­mit­ting: “I’d love to be able to put my fin­ger on it and I’m sure the man­age­ment and the team would as well. “It’s not co­in­ci­dence but it’s al­most, it is just a co­in­ci­dence that we can keep los­ing that first Test match.

“But we want to put that right,” he added, with the eyes of the global cricket com­mu­nity set to turn to Manch­ester in the ab­sence of any other ma­jor in­ter­na­tional fix­tures out­side of Eng­land amid the pan­demic.

Both of Pak­istan’s past two se­ries in Eng­land—2016 and 2018 —ended in draws, which should en­cour­age the tourists this time even though they go into the first Test on the back of just a cou­ple of in­tra-squad warm-up fix­tures com­pared to their ‘match-hard­ened’ hosts.

Pak­istan coach Mis­bah-ul-Haq ac­cepted how his bats­men coped with James An­der­son and Stu­art Broad would go a long way to de­ter­min­ing the out­come of the se­ries. But the for­mer Pak­istan cap­tain was also ex­cited by his own pace at­tack that in­cludes ris­ing star Naseem Shah, Mo­ham­mad Ab­bas and Sha­heen Shah Afridi.

Naseem be­came the youngest to take a Test hat-trick against Bangladesh in Fe­bru­ary and he showed a lik­ing for English con­di­tions with 10 wick­ets in the two prac­tice matches at Derby. “He is one who could win a Test match on his own,” said Mis­bah.

Pak­istan, how­ever, could still de­ploy two spin­ners at Old Traf­ford in Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan. Pak­istan will hope the likes of Abid Ali, the first man to score a hun­dred on both Test and one-day in­ter­na­tional de­but, Shan Ma­sood, Azhar Ali, Babar Asam and Asad Shafiq can pro­vide the runs they need.

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