England vs Pakistan 2016: 5 player battles to watch out for
After a long six-year hiatus, Pakistan return to England to play their first Test series since 2010 and carry with themselves a baggage of unfulfilled dreams and shattered dignity. As to what effect will that have when they actually take the field at Lord’s on July 14 is yet to unfold, but what can be taken for certain is the fact that each of those 11 men who step onto the grass banks in London would be a part of history.
The word gambles have been taken, the counters to those gambles have been presented too, and when a certain Pakistani prodigy holds the red ball in his hands for the first time in six years, cricket would take giant strides in terms of its acceptability and room for forgiveness. Whether or not the game deserved such a move will be debated for years to come, but whatever Mohammad Amir does thenceforth, would be struck by his name, and added to his stats of 51 wickets from 14 Tests.
However, such has been the cloud that the 24-year-old has cast over a series that involves 21 other men on the field, that it has become more about the cricketer and less about the game itself. Shredding that philosophy, here, in this piece, we pick five players from either side who could be found engaged in key battles that would have a lasting impact on the outcome of the series.
#1 Alastair Cook vs Mohammad Amir
Out of the seven occasions that Alastair Cook and Mohammad Amir have come face to face in Test cricket, Amir has dismissed the England skipper thrice, and all three of those dismissals came during Pakistan’s 2010 tour to England. Certainly, the left arm pacer knows a thing or two about getting rid of left-handed batsmen such as the English captain. However, in six years that have passed by since the tour, Cook has elevated himself to the topmost echelons of Test match batsmanship. Only recently, the 31-year-old became the first Englishman and the youngest batsman to reach the milestone of 10000 Test runs.
The epitome of consistency and the synonym of solid, technically sound, and utterly boring, if I dare say, class of batting would be up against an unstoppable force that has rekindled itself after hitting an immovable object. Although Amir hasn’t taken the red ball in international cricket since his return in January this year, the potency that he has shown in the tournaments that he has played since have only reconfirmed the fact that his skills haven’t deteriorated during his five-year-exile.
With a little help from the conditions, something that is expected to be present in abundance in England, Amir is in with every chance of repeating his Man of the Series performance of 19 wickets from 4 Tests in the 2010 tour. The Pakistani’s ability to move the ball both ways at a sharp pace, and surprise the batsmen with even sharper bouncers may become a stern challenge even for a batsman of Cook’s calibre.