England started their three-match series against Pakistan with a thrilling victory at Emirates Old Trafford before a damp squib of a draw in the second Test at the Ageas Bowl.
However, contests involving Pakistan are rarely dull and the third Test at the Hampshire venue should be an entertaining finale.
Ben Stokes remains unavailable but England, who usually improve as a series goes on, are
20/27 to wrap up a 2-0 victory.
Hosts Have Room for Improvement
England have done their best work this summer in Manchester, beating the West Indies twice and nailing an unlikely run-chase against Pakistan thanks to a brilliant stand between Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes.
Their efforts at the Ageas Bowl have been less impressive as they lost to the Windies in July and were frustrated by rain, bad light and Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan last time out.
Rizwan’s 72 helped the tourists scramble a first-innings score of 236 – England only had time to reach 110-4 in reply – but Pakistan’s batsmen must step up if they are to land odds of
49/20 and square the series.
The forecast is better than it was for the second Test – the draw is a
10/3 chance – but any overcast conditions will excite England’s bowlers.
Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, the tourists’ most experienced batsmen, are averaging 12.66 and 13.66 in the series and their struggles means Pakistan’s batting looks brittle.
England have Jofra Archer and Mark Wood in reserve if they want to freshen up their attack and, despite their own batting frailties, they should get the job done.
Back Broad to Continue Sensational Form
England’s selectors wound up Stuart Broad by dropping him for the first Test match of the summer – and opposing batsmen have borne the brunt of that decision.
Since his recall, the bristling paceman has taken 26 wickets in seven innings since, reaching 500 Test scalps in the process.
It would be a brave man to suggest to Broad that he might like a rest in the final Test and he is an appealing price at
11/4 to be England’s top first-innings wicket-taker.
After 22 wickets in the three Tests at Old Trafford, the 34-year-old took 4-52 in the first innings at the Ageas Bowl last time out, including the prize wicket of the well-set Babar Azam.
James Anderson is
11/4 in the market but he has had a quiet summer by his own record-breaking standards, picking up nine wickets in four appearances.
Babar the Bet for Pakistan and Youngsters Can Shine for England
Babar Azam has posted some astonishing figures in Twenty20 and ODI cricket and his Test record is improving rapidly.
His last six innings before this tour were 104, 97, eight, 102 not out, 60 and 100 not out and the number four has shown his class in England.
Knocks of 69, five and 47 make him the second-highest runscorer in the series and he looks a solid
5/2 favourite to top-score in Pakistan’s first innings.
Two youngsters look worth considering. Ollie Pope at
4/1 looks increasingly at home at Test level, averaging almost 90 in South Africa last winter and playing quality innings of 91 against the Windies and 62 against Pakistan this summer.
11/2 chance Zak Crawley enjoyed himself as the second Test petered out into a draw, hitting seven boundaries in a promising 53. That was Crawley’s second half-century in three Test innings at the Ageas Bowl – the venue for his career-best 76 against the West Indies last month.
*All odds correct at time of writing