After a thrilling start to the three-Test series, England and Pakistan go head-to-head in match two this week and the tourists will be itching to level things up after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the opener.
Pakistan will be wondering how they didn’t walk away from Emirates Old Trafford with a win last week, having dismissed England for 219 to establish a 107-run first-innings lead before reducing the hosts to 117-5 in their chase for a more than testing target of 277.
Questions have been asked of Azhar Ali’s captaincy and he will be desperate to prove the doubters wrong when the second Test gets underway at The Ageas Bowl, Southampton on Thursday.
Tourists to Level Series
As mentioned before, Pakistan appeared to have the first Test in their grasp, only to let it slip away, but they demonstrated they are more than capable of dealing with English conditions and victory in the second clash looks tempting at
Like England, the tourists’ strength lies in the bowling department, with Yasir Shah garnering huge praise for his efforts in Manchester as he finished with match figures of 8-165.
The quicks also caused England problems and with the Ageas Bowl pitch favouring the fast bowlers, it is thought Pakistan could draft in paceman Wahab Riaz in place of spinner Shadab Khan.
Had it not been for Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler, England would not have come out on top in the opener and there are still huge questions being asked of the top order, who have struggled recently.
Captain Joe Root doesn’t look in perfect touch right now and with talisman Ben Stokes missing the remainder of the series due to family reasons, a lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of Zak Crawley to score runs.
Unsung Hero Woakes to Shine on the South Coast
It is fair to say that England’s bowling attack of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes is one of the country’s best-ever quartets, with a mix of pace, swing and seam all combining fantastically.
Changes could be made to the attack, given how busy the fixtures schedule has been and still is, but one player that should retain his place after his star showing in Manchester is Woakes.
The 31-year-old has been described as an unsung hero and his importance to the team was evident at Old Trafford, as he took four wickets over the course of the match and produced a fantastic unbeaten 84 in the successful run chase.
With the chance of overcast conditions during the second Test, this will allow Woakes to get even more swing on the ball and he is worth a punt at
7/2 to be England’s top bowler in the first innings.
Babar to Reach Milestone
There was a lot of talk about the talent of Babar Azam heading into the first Test and he looked every inch the world-class batsman in his first innings knock of 69, stroking some lovely boundaries along the way.
He needs just 77 more runs to complete 2000 runs in Test cricket, having aggregated 100-plus runs in five consecutive games before the Manchester Test match, and the 25-year-old could be the main man this week.
The only slight worry was the way he got out on both occasions, with Babar pushing at balls outside of off stump, but he should have learned from that experience and he gets the nod to be Pakistan’s top scorer in the first innings at
*All odds correct at time of writing