England under pressure to hit the ground running
The first Test of England’s home summer is a big one against Pakistan at Lord’s with the hosts under pressure to find their best combination.
A new national selector in Ed Smith has brought a fresh approach but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating as England seek to get one over on mid-table rivals Pakistan.
Pakistan meanwhile will be holding auditions for the replacements for Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan in their middle order.
The series offers Joe Root a chance to revise his approach to captaincy, building on the mistakes of an arduous winter down under.
Root will have to lead from the from as he steps up to fill the contentious number three spot in the order, one which many maintain he should have occupied all along, behind
openers whose form hasn’t been the greatest of late.
The skipper will hope that a meaty middle-order, reinforced by white ball keeper Jos Buttler who was on fire in the IPL, can back him up on what looks to be a good surface at Lord’s.
Pakistan will look to Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to shepherd the younger batsman around them
and ensure allrounders Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf are not left to pull of another rescue act as in Malahide.
There is no Moeen Ali for England with Dom Bess coming into the squad for Somerset teammate Jack Leach who injured himself in a county match last week.
Bess will debut at Lord’s on Thursday with the only question around England’s XI whether Mark Wood or Chris Woakes will assume the third seamer role.
All eyes will be on Stuart Broad and James Anderson as they begin a season that will determine whether they lead the attack in the 2019 Ashes while Pakistan’s pace stocks are full to overflowing.
Mohammad Amir found rhythm playing through the pain in Dublin and enjoys bowling at Lord’s, his battle with Alastair Cook will be one to watch.
Ben Stokes may relish a return to the long format after a stuttering IPL campaign for the Rajasthan Royals.
Managing bowling workloads will be key for both skippers with the surface looking set to play true.
Root at three for England needs a good series to regain some confidence ahead of the visit of a very good and very motivated India side.
James Anderson’s wiles will come in handy as an innings wears on.
Shafiq looks to be the most solid of Pakistan’s middle order and he will have to assume the responsibility of holding things together if the top falters.
Mohammad Abbas is Amir’s lowkey but deadly partner with the new ball, proving his prowess against Ireland he is hungry for wickets.
England XI (likely): 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Mark Stoneman, 3 Joe Root (capt), 4 Dawid Malan, 5 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jos Buttler, 8 Dom Bess, 9 Mark Wood 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson
Pakistan XI (Likely): 1 Azhar Ali, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Haris Sohail, 4 Asad Shafiq, 5 Babar Azam, 6 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Mohammad Abbas
Hours of play (local time): 11:00 start, Lunch 13.00-13.40, Tea 15.40-16.00, Close 18.00
Match days: 24,25,26,27,28 May 2018 (5-day match)
Umpires: Bruce Oxenford and Rod Tucker
TV Umpire:Paul Reiffel
Reserve Umpire: Michael Gough
Match Referee: Jeff Crowe
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