Alastair Cook says England ready for Pakistan, hails Hales
LONDON (Reuters) - England test skipper Alastair Cook believes his batsmen are well-prepared to deal with Pakistan's fiery attack next month after getting plenty of practice in the middle against a weakened Sri Lanka side.
England crushed Sri Lanka 2-0 in the three-test home series that concluded on Monday, facing little resistance from a team shorn of frontline pacemen Dushmantha Chameera and Dhammika Prasad through injury at different stages during the tour.
However, Cook's side can expect a far bigger challenge from a formidable Pakistani pace attack spearheaded by left-armers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, supplemented by tricky leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
"They've got a very good pace attack, backed up with spinners," Cook said after the rain-hit final test against Sri Lanka ended in a tame draw at Lord's.
"But we're ready for them. We scored a lot of runs against Australia's attack here last year. I think it's going to be a brilliant series."
Amir will be returning to test cricket after serving a five-year ban following a spot-fixing scandal in England, while the four-test series will be Shah's first since he served a three-month suspension for a doping violation.
Cook will also be delighted to have finally found a stable opening partner in Alex Hales, who finished the series against Sri Lanka as the second highest scorer on 292 runs from five innings.
His performance marked a significant improvement by the 27-year-old Hales, who averaged just 17 in his debut test series in South Africa earlier this year as he struggled to make the transition from limited-overs cricket.
"Three scores of 80 and above from Alex Hales was really pleasing," Cook said of his eighth opening partner since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.
"He's certainly tightened up his game from South Africa and probably just learned about test cricket."
It was a satisfying series for Jonny Bairstow too, the English wicketkeeper-batsman emerging as the top-scorer and walking away with the man-of-the-series award.
Cook hailed Bairstow's batting prowess but admitted the 26-year-old had room for improvement behind the stumps.
"It's great to have an attacking batsman coming in and taking it to the opposition. He's been very similar to Matt Prior when he was at his best."
"He knows how hard he has to work at his keeping... He knows a couple of chances have gone down, but you don't become a world-class wicketkeeper overnight.
"He's made big strides since that South Africa series and is certainly heading in the right direction."
Pakistan will play four tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 International in England between July 14 and September 7.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by John O'Brien)