England vs Pakistan, 2018: Things Pakistan Must Do to Win Headingley Test
Pakistan, a bunch toothless cubs (mostly) with no prior exposure of the brand of cricket played in England, a side with five uncapped players, and eight of those who never played a Test in England, a side which lost to Sri Lanka 2-0 in their own backyard (UAE) last year and almost lost to debutant Ireland, not only thumped full-fledged England squad (that too at the home of cricket – Lord’s) but in such a way that sent shockwaves across the English cricket board which resultantly was compelled to make squad changes and ponder over a shake at management level too.
That was arguably the most emphatic win for Pakistan over England in the last couple of years and was the worst for England this decade. They were beaten at Lord’s for the third consecutive time at the hands of Pakistan. They were wrapped up in (almost) three days. Had this been any other day, news headlines all over the world would have been same but with Pakistan’s name instead of England. That is exactly what England used to do with the visitors and now- these young and inexperienced, No.7 side has given them a taste of their own medicine.
Pakistan’s great victory was not only celebrated at home but was also lauded by the cricket fraternity, they were called ‘Lords of the Lord’s’, ‘Young Lions’, ‘World Beaters’ and ‘Little Champions’ – but, it was four days ago!
Now, they have Headingley Test ahead, a test of their infamous consistency, a test of their guts and grit. England, corned tigers, will come harder at them with a reviewed strategy and a refreshed mindset. They are good at it; they have been doing over the years.
So, in order to turn their 1-0 lead to an unassailable 2-0, this is what lords of the Lord’s need to do as they head to Headingley.
Forget Lord’s, Focus on Headingley
It is true that Lord’s Test was the best thing could happen to Pakistan on this tour, but that’s past now. Please DO NOT reside in the past and take England easy for the upcoming game is it is the most likely thing to happen in young minds and it is equally drastic for the team’s concentration and effort level.
Resharpen the Tools
Pakistan’s overall performance in the first Test against England showed they were well prepared, in fact very well. The lines and lengths they bowled to English batters, their batting with mostly straight bat and no chasing out of wide balls and then the fielding standard showed they had worked out their flaws and were there to win.
But, now this would have been dissected by the England management. They are well equipped and would certainly watch Lord’s test videos over and over to find out their mistake and would surely put efforts to work that out. Had the game continued for allotted five days, England have had limited time to work it out, but now they had two extra days and a lot of media and cricket board pressure to revisit their game plan. So they’d be prepared to what Pakistan offered them at Lord’s. Therefore, Mickey Arthur, Azhar Mehmood and Sarfraz Ahmed, the smart brains behind the ICC Champions Trophy success and the famous Lord’s win, would have to reshape and renew their tools to tackle England’s counterpunch.
Pick Fakhar over Usman
The name of Usman Salahuddin is floating in Pakistan media as a ‘most probable’ replacement for injured Babar Azam. There is not a word on his set of skills with the bat, but he was among the runs and remained unbeaten against Leicestershire - only game he got so far in this tour and he has been top scorer in domestic tournament back at home too – but it is likely that Fakhar Zaman would be picked over Usman for the following reasons:
-He is good against fast bowlers and in English conditions.
-He is the powerhouse with the bat and can prove to be the missing link of Pakistan’s lower middle order.
-He may do for Pakistan what Ben Stokes does for England.
After a valuable lesson at Lord’s England won’t (most likely) prepare a green-top wicket, they’d not put their feeble top order in any more troubles for the sake of honor. So expect not-very-green wickets in the next game, and their Pakistan would need a part-time wicket-to-wicket spinner in the shape of Fakhar.
Reshuffle Batting Order
In the absence of Babar, Pakistan has a fine opportunity to try a bit of batting order shaking. Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has an ability to bat up the order and thus should bat at number four or number five to give Fakhar a chance to speed up the scoring rate that usually remains under 3 throughout the innings. This may also bring his lost confidence back.
Add More Bowling Options
Shadab Khan, who filled the shoes of experienced and a successful campaigner Yasir Shah, was chosen as the strike bowler in the team, and Fahim Ashraf was picked as an extra fast bowler who can take the burden off the two frontline pacers, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Abbas. But both players did not deliver to the par. However, both compensated with the bat just to avoid critiques’ wrath. Had Pakistan lost Lord’s Test, the situation would have been different for both.
Ashraf was not given enough bowling, only 9 overs each innings; he could be utilized to rest injury-prone Amir and tireless Abbas as he can swing the ball as well.
Shadab was taken for runs with an average economy of almost 4.5 for two wickets in 25 overs he bowled in two innings. The reason he did not get enough overs were some or all of these:
-He was bowling more googlies then the leg-spin and was easy to read.
-He did not bowl according to plan and was often short of the line
-The wicket was greener as the match ended in three days and an hour.
However, with the expectation of a batting-friendly wicket in Leeds, Pakistan should add someone who gives them an extra bowling option and with a reshuffle of current bowling brigade’s jobs. Fakhar can be the best choice.
Pakistan is in such a sublime form that they can win without even bothering about any of makeovers, but these suggestions are worth a chance!Published 31 May 2018, 14:20 IST