Stokes Fitness Boost can be Key for England

After a comeback series success over West Indies, England look set to face an even tougher challenge in the upcoming Test meetings with Pakistan.

England all-rounder Ben Stokes celebrates scoring a century.

The tourists go into the three-match schedule having won their last two Test series – against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – but their ability with bat and ball will be tested in English conditions and that’s why Joe Root’s men are the 5/11 favourites.

The first Test gets underway at Emirates Old Trafford on Wednesday, with England handed a major fitness boost ahead of the coin toss.

Stokes Ready to Light up First Test

Ben Stokes couldn’t bowl in the third Test victory against the Windies, due to a quad injury, but the world’s top all-rounder bowled in the nets earlier this week, to suggest he will play a full part against Pakistan.

If the Durham ace is passed fit to bowl, it will have an impact on the selectors team choice. England are expected to revert to a three-seam frontline attack and that will likely see Zak Crawley return to the batting line-up.

That means they will probably decide from Jofra Archer or Chris Woakes as to who will be the third seamer, joining James Anderson and Stuart Broad – who is 8/1.

Burns Hoping to Maintain Top Form

It’s also worth noting the form of Rory Burns coming into the first Test, with the England opener looking to improve as the summer progresses. The Surrey ace recorded two half-centuries (90 and 57) in the last Test against West Indies.

Burns, who will be facing Pakistan for the first time, has seen his Test batting average rise to 35.67 and can be backed at 7/2 to be Top England 1st innings batsman.

Pakistan Relying on Impressive Bowling Attack

Pakistan have arrived in the UK with a young squad but one which looks full of potential, especially their bowling attack.

Shaheen Afridi is just 20 years of age but he already has 30 wickets in eight Test matches to date, at an average of 27.96. He will be backed up by the 17-year-old Naseem Shah, who has taken 13 wickets in four Test appearances.

Undoubtably the star with the bat for the tourists, is Babar Azam – who is currently sixth in the ICC Test batting rankings and 2/1 to be Pakistan’s top 1st innings batsman.

The ODI skipper has recently been batting at four in the five-day game and smashed 143 off just 193 balls in the victory over Bangladesh in February.

The two most recent series in England between the sides have been drawn – 1-1 in 2018 and 2-2 in 2016 – and this also promises to be a hard-fought encounter.

But the hosts’ form at this week’s venue is impressive, with England winning 13 of their last 14 Test matches at Old Trafford – including a comprehensive 330-run victory over Pakistan in 2016.

Baring Australia, Pakistan are the last team to beat England in Manchester, having claimed a 108-run success back in 2001, and are 19/4 to win the first test.

*All odds correct at time of writing

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