Pakistan v England 3rd Test preview: England desperate to square off the series

Pakistan v England 3rd Test preview: England desperate to square off the series

Pakistan v England 3rd Test preview: England desperate to square off the series: Two Test matches gone and England are still searching for their account opener. Given that they were not the favourites coming in, why should it surprise any, be it the pundits or the fans. But it is perplexing to say the least. The reason being, the tourists had come so close Abu Dhabi and had bad light not interfered were on course for a historic win. Much to their agony, they had no such respite from the weather when it was their turn in Dubai and a career-defining knock from Adil Rashid went in vain as Pakistan took the lead.

After the last day drama in Abu Dhabi and the final session theatrics of Dubai, the third Test of this gripping series between Pakistan and England has plenty to live up to. Pakistan only needs to avoid defeat to take the series but given the way England have fought with vigour, they are not going to have it easy.

Pakistan:

Yasir Shah
Shane Warne calls Yasir Shah a wonderful bowler. (© Getty Images)

It’s been a showcase of Test cricket’s pros and cons with two, at times, stamina-sapping games of cricket for both players and spectators alike, until each contest surprisingly exploded into life at the end.

And Pakistan deserves the credit in each. While they looked unharmed in the 1st Test, till day 5, it was some irresponsible shot selection that almost cost them the game. Not often do the visiting sides overtake massive first innings total set by Pakistan in the middle east but England did courtesy absolute brilliance by skipper Alastair Cook and obviously Yasir Shah’s absence.

Then in Dubai, things were tight until Wahab Riaz’s fiery spell on the morning of day three set his country on course for a seemingly straightforward win. However, a heroic rearguard action from England’s tail and Adil Rashid in particular almost stole a draw until Pakistan picked off the last wicket to secure the win with just 6.3 overs remaining. While the spin duo of Pakistan have got plenty of attention Riaz has been the most devastating bowler of the series.

As England have found out, Pakistan are a formidable opponent in UAE conditions, as they have lost just three of the 20 Tests they’ve contested. The success mantra in these condition’s inevitably is – win the toss, bat first and score a decent number of runs, thus piling the pressure on the opposition which has to bat last on a most likely deteriorating track.

But to do this you need to have an attack capable of taking 20 wickets, which, with the likes of Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah in the ranks, Pakistan certainly has. And a ultra-strong middle order, built on the relentless Younis Khan, who averages over 54, and Misbah-Ul-Haq, who, at the age of 41, seems to be getting better and better, isn’t too bad either.

But the hosts will have to make some forced changes. Imran Khan, who has taken six wickets across the two Tests has injured his hand and seems set to be replaced by left-arm paceman Rahat Ali. The struggling Shan Masood may find himself carrying the drinks if Azhar Ali, who has scored 542 runs in the current calendar year, passes a fitness test.

Given that they can no longer lose the series, with the pressure somewhat off, Pakistan could play a more expansive game than the previous two Tests, making for compulsive viewing.

England:

Joe Root
 (© Getty Images)

The primary concern for them would how to get a decent first innings total (by decent we mean around 400) and stop the run machines of Pakistan from scoring big. They have managed to somewhat shut Shoaib Malik, the first Test double centurion but others have made merry.

So far, only Alastair Cook and Joe Root have really got to grips with the conditions of 338 and 277 runs, respectively, while the rest of side have struggled. Another area of worry is the economy of their spinners with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali going at over 4.3 runs per over compared to Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar’s combined economy rate of just over 2.3 runs per over.

What is beyond doubt is that there will be plenty of different faces from the Dubai encounter. Mark Wood has already been ruled out through injury, meaning Liam Plunkett, Chris Jordan or even Samit Patel could add to their collection of Test caps  The out-of-form Jos Buttler seems set to be replaced by Jonny Bairstow behind the stumps, allowing James Taylor, an excellent player of spin, to come in and stiffen up the top six.

Crucial to their chances would be keeping in mind that they have performed better than expectations and with a little bit of luck they have a chance.

Prediction:

England having nothing to lose, an exciting Test should be in store, but the odds just seem stacked against them. Throw in Pakistan’s balanced bowling attack, vastly experienced middle order and almost total comfort in the conditions and it would be no surprise to see Misbah’s men claiming a 2-0 series win.

Stats:

  • Pakistan have lost 3 Tests in UAE since it became their adopted home ground in 2010, and all three have been at Sharjah
  • Highest Team total at Sharjah – 690 by New Zealand, 2014-15
  • Lowest Team total at the venue – Pakistan 53, 2002-03
  • Shoaib has scored 1,860 runs and needs 140 more to reach the 2,000 runs milestone
  • Off the 76 Test played between the sides, England have won 22, Pakistan 17 while 37 have ended with a drawn.

Weather and Pitch

Expect scorching heat and according to the weather department it would be wise to bring in sunscreen creams. The pitch is expected to be a belter initially and crumble on the last two days.

Time: 10:00 local | 11.00 IST | 06:00 GMT

Probable XI:

Pakistan:

Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Rahat Ali

England:

Alastair Cook (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor