It feels like a long time since the English home summer of 2022, where Ben Stokes and Brendan McCullum breathed new life into the disheveled corpse that had been the Three Lions’ red-ball team. In the couple of months since England’s series win over South Africa, the white-ball side have beaten Australia, won the 2022 T20 World Cup, and also clinched a thrilling series against their opponents here. In what is shaping up to be an enthralling first Test tour since 2005, check out five storylines worth following during the Pakistan vs England series here at SinkorSwimSports.
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Can Stokes Keep The Momentum Going?
Ben Stokes took the reins as England Test captain ahead of the 2022 summer with the side in the absolute doldrums. Despite only boasting a modest amount of captaincy experience, the all-rounder immediately took to the role, leading the side to six wins out of seven. Stokes’ fearless style of play has radiated across the squad, with England noticeably seeing a change of tact revolving around taking 20 wickets and scoring at over 4.00 each innings.
This tour of Pakistan marks Stokes’ first challenge away from home, however, so it’ll be fascinating to see whether England can keep up this aggressive approach, and just how effective it will be in unfamiliar environments.
Will Shaheen Be A Blow?
The final of the 2022 T20 World Cup will be remembered for Adil Rashid’s wicket-maiden, Pakistan’s fiery counter-attack, and Stokes’ assurance innings, however, Shaheen Shah Afridi’s injury undoubtedly provided the game’s biggest ‘what-if’.
The 22-year-old fast bowler underwent surgery on his knee and appendix following the World Cup final and will miss the entire series in what looks like a big blow for the hosts. There have been a few big omissions from Pakistan’s team to face England, with spinner Yasir Shah and seamer Hasan Ali, and batsman Fawad Alam all set to miss out.
Can England Get The Ball Spinning?
Whilst it’s fair to say spinners didn’t play as big a role in the T20 series between these two as some might have expected, it’s hard to imagine the same being true for all three Tests here in Rawalpindi, Multan, and Karachi.
It’s fair to say England are still waiting for a world-class spinner to emerge following the retirement of Graeme Swann back in 2012, and their current arsenal of Jack Leach and occasionally Joe Root isn’t the most daunting attack we’ve ever seen. Leach has taken the third-most wickets for England in 2022 Test matches, bagging 33 at 37.57 but the Three Lions have still opted to include an extra spinner in their side in the form of Liam Livingstone ahead of the series.
Ben Stokes is a big fan of Leach, but carrying the bulk of the pressure of a tour in Pakistan is a feat reserved for the very best.
Stopping Babar’s Class
In the wake of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup final heartbreak, there have been a few calls circulating that Babar Azam might be better off taking a step back from the leadership of the side. Undoubtedly one of the finest players in his generation, the weight of expectation on Azam is something very few players will ever have to deal with.
The batter has smashed seven centuries in Test matches, with his average of 47.30 seeing him ranked only behind Joe Root and Marnus Labuschange in the ICC player rankings. Stopping the skipper is going to be among the highest priorities for England this series.
England’s Big-Hitting Batsmen
In order to win in Pakistan, a team needs to be able to bat for long, long periods of time. The grueling conditions and way in which the pitches crack up mean that the mental toll of being at the crease can really make or break a batsman. It’s an experience unlike any other around the world and one that might prove to be at odds with England’s intent to take on any bowler from ball one.
In response to the conditions, England have named a squad that is filled with players who have proven themselves to be adept at playing spin. Ben Foakes showcased his skills in the summer, whilst the recalling of Keaton Jennings in place of Alex Lees looks to have been, at least in part, fuelled by the former’s strong form in the subcontinent (averaging 44.00).
Elsewhere, England have made the interesting call of selecting a few names that fans are probably more used to seeing in the white-ball formats. Harry Brook continues his quest to be an all-format player for the Three Lions, however, the inclusions of Will Jacks, Ben Duckett, and Liam Livingstone could prove to be genius, or incredibly naive.
Red Bulls, James Anderson and Christian Pulisic enthusiast. Still unsure how Wes Brown wrangled himself a Champions League medal – Premier League, Cricket and Major League Soccer contributor at SinkorSwimSports.