Pakistan have a fine record at Lord’s over the past tours to England, limiting to Test matches. Interestingly they have won here in some nail biting finishes, such as in 1982 when Mohsin Khan and Javed Miandad roared home against the clock to defeat England by 10 wickets; with similar close wins in 1992 (2 wickets), an overwhelming one in 1996 (164 runs) and then in 2016 by 75 runs.
They drew 4 of their first six Tests here from 1954 to 1978, and then did not lose another Test here till 2001, after which they lost two of the next three. The good news is that their last memory is of a win which is also one that is best remembered for Misbah’s salute and the push up celebration by him on reaching his hundred; and by the team after the victory.
So when the Pakistanis march into the hallowed turf at Lord’s what record will they have in mind? It’s all sqaure with 4 Test wins each at Lord’s from 15 played. Yet England have the experience to par with home conditions and this is a raw, young side.
Sarfraz will be fully aware that they are without last time’s match winners Misbah ul Haq (114) and Yasir Shah (10 wickets). Added to that they will also be missing experienced campaigners in Younus Khan, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz – in fact only 4 of that winning eleven (Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Amir) survive from Lord’s 2016 if Pakistan drop Rahat Ali.
That seems on the cards after Rahat couldn’t get a breakthrough in the second innings against Test minnows Ireland last week. And against Leicestershire he couldn’t fill the last column either though the edges he created were missed twice in the slips.
So who replaces him? I would urge Mickey Arthur and Sarfraz to throw in an extra batsman in either Usman Salahuddin, who showed some fine strokeplay in his unbeaten 69 last Saturday at Leicester, or Saad Ali, who can also turn his arm over with military medium.
I say an extra batsman because Pakistan doesn’t really have anyone in the bowling ranks who is a speedster. Hasan Ali seems the obvious choice for an apples to apples replacement and can make the ball talk on his day. But it’s an experienced bowling attack (Anderson and Broad have nearly a thousand Test wickets between them – 941 to be exact) that Pakistan’s frail batting may well fall pray of. Even Mark Wood or Chris Woakes can do a bit on the slope at Lord’s.
For those who don’t know about this, the north-west side of the playing surface is just over 8 feet higher than the south-east side. Resultantly anyone bowling inswingers from the pavilion end will get palpable deviance in bounce off the pitch and when bowling from the other end to move away.
Which is why at Lord’s off spinners and inswingers are normally bowled from the pavilion end and leg spinners and bowlers with strong outswing from the far end. Of course that is a preference but not a hard and fast rule.
Also, in both the innings at Malahide, Pakistan lost their first two wickets at 13 and were half out at 150-odd. The England bowling line up is far more threatening. Though the forecast for the match is of dry weather but thunderstorms are expected which means overcast sky for a while leading to some swing and wobble. It is anathema for Pakistani batsmen who are ascetic in their footwork and shorn of technique against the moving ball. You normally see them edging or putting pad before bat or simply inside edging on to the stumps. Fodder for the swing bowler.
Pakistan can even consider Fakhar Zaman but I would guard against it. He is like Saeed Anwar but no Saeed Anwar yet. At the moment he can get into quite awkward positions and English slips should gobble him up if he doesn’t expose his stumps before that. Perhaps the only thing going for him (if Pakistan don’t go for a fifth bowler in Hasan Ali) is his experience of English conditions and runs in the Champions Trophy, especially against England in the semifinal where he fetched 57; but mind you, without Anderson and Broad playing.
I also think it’s risky to put Haris Sohail at No. 3 and I’d rather send in Asad Shafiq even though it would mean totally unsettling him after pushing him to number four from six. But Haris has a habit of edging through the slips and to gully early on when the newish ball swings more. I would play him at No. 4.
Babar Zaman should retain his place at No.5 and then we have the batsman from either Fakhar, Usman or Saad followed by the allrounders Faheem Ashraf, Sarfraz (who should bat at No.7 to get back his form rather than carry the burden of a specialist batsman at No.6) and Shadab.
By not playing an extra bowler, I don’t think Pakistan will lose much. The fifth bowler couldn’t do much when Kevin O’Brian and Thompson were batting. And Sarfraz never used Haris Sohail and Azhar Ali who have the potential of partnership breakers. He can do that at Lord’s.
Yes, there is the fear if fitness of Amir but from what I was told by sources inside the squad was that at Malahide it was more cramps than a pulled muscle. Sarfraz got panicky and sent him off but he is quite fit to bowl as he showed in the lunch session at Leicester when he bowled full throttle on the side pitch.
Abbas and Shadab are the ones against whom the England batsman will have done their homework. Sarfraz should try Shadab more and more from the far end to take advantage of the slope. But I have a feeling that the English batsmen will play both with confidence. It was Yasir’s guile that got them two years ago. Shadab is someone who more often than not pushes the ball through and the English batsman like the ball coming on to the bat. They are likely to counter him by rotating the strike.
Regarding Abbas, the Englishman play his type for their bread and butter in the county championship. Yet he can be dangerous if only because he sticks to a good length and like McGrath and Asif, can be annoyingly accurate.
Overall England have the edge I believe. I also fear for an under 150 score by Pakistan in one of the innings. The best thing they can do if they win the toss is to bat and spend time at the pitch but to be not too defensive. Both Anderson and Broad can smell the fear a mile away. Strike rotation is essential.
Sarfraz also needs to be aggressive and play to his instincts. At Malahide he took the second slip away too quickly when the key partnerships were developing in the lower order. He has to attack England. Otherwise their bulldog spirit can totally overwhelm them. And he has to let go the shorter format temperament and let go the attempted cut outside off stump.
It’s going to be tough, very tough against England. The record show that when Pakistan have won at Lord’s they’ve mostly squeezed through and when they’ve lost they’ve lost heavily. Its 4-4 as I said but the advantage in this game is decidedly England’s.