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England wary of slow start against Pakistan in Test

05 Aug, 2020 - 00:08 0 Views

The Herald

LONDON. — England know another sluggish start to a Test cricket campaign could prove costly as they go in search of a first series win over Pakistan in a decade.

Today 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 of their rivals, their last such success against Pakistan was back 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 statistic they are all well 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 no 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.

“We’ve had good preparations and team bonding,” Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq said on Monday.

“Still we feel there is always a slight nervousness when you just play Test cricket after a long, long time (away),” he added ahead of his side’s first Test in six months.

Misbah accepted that how his batsmen coped with James Anderson and Stuart Broad — who now both have more than 500 Test wickets each after Broad reached the landmark against the West Indies — would go a long way to determining the outcome of the series.

But the former Pakistan captain was also excited by a pace attack that includes the youthful promise of teenage rising star Naseem Shah as well as the accurate Mohammad Abbas, and towering left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi.

Naseem has impressed Pakistan fast-bowling great turned bowling Waqar Younis and Misbah so much when they saw him in action in Lahore, the coach said they had no qualms about fast-tracking a “complete bowler” into Pakistan’s side in Australia last year. — AFP.

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