With the series tied up at 1-1, our cricket writer takes a look at the all-important third Test between England and Pakistan.
This is shaping up to be quite an interesting series with Pakistan winning the first Test at Lord’s by 75 runs before England bounced back with a thumping 330 run win at Old Trafford last week.
The English will be in confident mood heading into the Edgbaston Test – they’ve only lost at the venue once since 2002 while the Pakistani’s have never tasted Test victory in England’s second city.
England vs Pakistan | Wednesday 3 August – Sunday 7 August | Edgbaston | Birmingham
To Win Match
England 53/100 | Draw 33/10 | Pakistan 4/1
The English put in a relentless display at Old Trafford last week as if buoyed on by their shortcomings in London a week prior. Joe Root was the standout performer after his lean run of form came to an abrupt end as he helped himself 325 over his two innings including a spectacular 254 in the first. Alistair Cook also contributed to England’s first innings score with a typically bullish 105 while there were also solid contributions from Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes – who is fast becoming one of the best Test all-rounders in the world at the minute.
Woakes has been sensational during this series ensuring that Ben Stokes’ continued absence isn’t really that much of an issue. The Warwickshire man has bagged 18 wickets and 116 runs so far in the series and looks bang on course to claim the man of the series accolade. He’ll be raring to go at his home ground in what should be an electric atmosphere. Edgbaston is well known for pulling huge Pakistani support, Woakes would love nothing more than to silence them with another barnstorming performance.
The only real concern that the English have right now is with the form of Alex Hales who has struggled to deal with the swing of Mohammad Amir and the trickery and guile of Rahat Ali. The Nottinghamshire opener has endured a lean spell of late with his last real score coming in the second ODI against the Sri Lankans. His falling out of form has raised a few concerns, especially after the English selectors thought that they had found the solution to their opening woes. There’s no real chance of him being dropped for the remainder of the series, although he’ll need to come good soon or the pressure will start getting to him.
Another man who is under massive pressure heading into this Test is James Vince. The Hampshire top order batsman has struggled to convert his county form into the Test arena. It’ll take a bit of time for his First Class form to translate into runs on the international stage, whether or not the English selectors allow him enough time for this form to materialise is a different story.
Looking ahead, the English rightfully come into this game as favourites. They will, however, come up against a Pakistani side that will be egged on by a large amount of supporters in Birmingham. They’ll need Root to continue where he left off and for the likes of Cook, Woakes and Bairstow to keep making meaningful contributions.
I really thought that Pakistan would show a bit more fight than they did in the second Test at Old Trafford. It’s always difficult avoiding defeat when your opposition puts nearly 600 runs on the board in their first innings.
That said, their top and middle order didn’t come to the party at all. And when you consider the amount of batting talent at their disposal – think Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali – they really should have done a bit better in some decent batting conditions.
They did have a bit of a run against a Worcestershire team earlier this week where some of their squad players and those needing a bit of fine-tuning were put through their paces. Shan Masood claimed 67 while Azhar Ali helped himself to 81 before just about all of the squad bowlers got to run in.
The extra time in the middle, as well as the vociferous support that Misbah and his men will receive in Birmingham, could be the catalyst they need to reclaim the series lead. Key to their chances will be the performance of Mohammad Amir who has so far impressed on his return to the country where he found guilty of spot-fixing a few years ago. The conditions suit him perfectly and the amount of lateral movement he is able to produce has found many of the English batsmen wanting.
So far we haven’t really seen any of the Pakistani batsmen – aside from Misbah who claimed 114 in the first innings of the first Test – come to the party. This has to change if they have any hope of winning their first Test series on English soil since 1996. Younis Khan and Mohammad Hafeez are going to have to put their hands up as senior players and assist Misbah with runs just as they did when the sides last met in the UAE.
Verdict: Pakistan draw no bet at 11/4
This Pakistani side don’t get nearly enough credit. They have a vastly experienced core of players who are capable of showing up even the strongest teams in the world. The return of Amir also means that they now have the x-factor they were lacking during the last few years. Combine this with the support they’ll receive from all of the Pakistani expats and I think they have every chance of winning. 11/4 on this market looks good value – get on!
Value Bet: Misbah to top score for Pakistan (1st inn) at 4/1
Misbah has been Pakistan’s best batsman for the last few years now. Although he comes in fairly low down the order, I wouldn’t put it past the Pakistani top order to wobble affording their captain quite a bit of time in the middle. Great value here at 4/1.
Written by Jason Dewey for @Hollywoodbets.