England embark on what is an important summer on Thursday when they take on Pakistan in the first of two Test matches at Lord’s. Given the short nature of this series the winner of this first match knows they will have at least a share of it in the bag.
Both sides probably head to HQ believing they have a bit to prove and that always makes for interesting cricket, and it should also guarantee a decent contest with both likely to be scrapping hard throughout.
I think this is a big summer for Joe Root. England had a wretched winter where they looked out of their depth for the most part and with Australia over next summer now is the time to begin to build some confidence. By the time the Australians land England will want a confident, daunting looking side and that must begin here.
We saw all winter that the batting was a big issue but actually what really went against them was the lack of variety in their bowling attack. In English conditions in May the latter is unlikely to be as much of a concern so all eyes will be on the batsmen to see if the shaken up order does its job or another false dawn is about to play out.
We never truly know what we’re going to get from Pakistan. In fairness I’m not completely convinced they know what they are going to produce so how anyone else can be I’m not sure. We do know that when they are inspired they have the ability to be special but when they are disinterested they can be incredibly ordinary.
I would imagine the Pakistan bowlers will be licking their lips at these upcoming two matches. Usually they are bowling on dustbowls in the UAE which offer nothing for the seamers but they will not be getting any of that here. Whether their batsmen can support the bowlers will be interesting to see, but if they do, this could be a classy Pakistan side.
England captain Joe Root has confirmed that Dominic Bess will make his debut in place of the injured Jack Leach. Jos Buttler has been confirmed at number seven leaving the only outstanding issue to be whether to play Chris Woakes or Mark Wood. The former seems favourite.
Pakistan have not named their side for the contest yet but they have confirmed that Mohammad Amir will be fit to line up despite a knee issue in the recent Test against Ireland. Imam-ul-Haq is set for his second Test.
There have been 135 previous Test matches at this famous ground with England successful in 53 of the 133 they have played in. They have also lost 31 and drawn 49. Pakistan have a mixed record here. In 15 matches they have four wins, five defeats and six draws. They did win their last match here two years ago though.
The wicket at Lord’s is usually extremely good for batting for the entire five days but when the clouds gather overhead the ball can move about a bit. The first day is said to be cloudy with the chance of a shower but moving into the weekend a heatwave will arrive.
I’m already effectively on Pakistan here from my series bet so I’m just going to raid the side markets for some punts on this match. I’ll begin that with the performance of Jonny Bairstow. The line is at 115.5 which would have felt low if he was batting at seven but with him due to come in at five it certainly looks on the low side. He should get two very good chances to build innings and I would imagine the usual amount of chances will come his way behind the stumps too. Over the four innings I’m expecting the Yorkshireman to go beyond 115.5pts.
Jimmy Anderson usually goes well at Lord’s and I see no reason why that won’t happen here. He has had a couple of matches for Lancashire this season so he should be in good touch and he always aims to begin a summer well. Pakistan have a bit of inexperience in their top three which Anderson may well be able to exploit so the odds against on him taking three or more first innings wickets appeals.
By the same nature the same equation looks nice in terms of Mohammad Abbas and his first innings wickets. I was impressed by him in the match against Ireland and he looks like the type of seamer who will get a bit of nibble from the surface and get the slope to do the work for him and trouble the batsman. If Amir isn’t at full tilt straight away Abbas could be the man to carry the Pakistan attack.
Faheem Ashraf top scored for Pakistan in their first innings against Ireland last month and it makes sense to back him to do the same here just in case England do produce one of those new ball bursts that can rip top orders apart. Ashraf is 20/1 to top score. He has a decent enough technique and unlike some of his counterparts he will look to get on with it which could be significant. I’ll give him a play.
Back J.Bairstow’s Performance – Over 115.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Bet365
WON – Back J.Anderson – Over 2.5 first innings wickets for a 4/10 stake at 2.10 with Ladbrokes
WON – Back M.Abbas – Over 2.5 first innings wickets for a 4/10 stake at 2.20 with Coral
Back F.Ashraf Top Pakistan first innings batsman for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with Boylesports
Back him here: