Wasim Akram banking on Pakistan's bowlers for series win against England
Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram has expressed his concerns about the adaptability of the team’s batting line-up to the seaming conditions in England but is still hopeful that the bowlers, led by the returning Mohammad Amir can lead the visitors to victory in the four-Test series which begins at the Lord’s from Thursday, July 14.
With England’s leading wicket-taker in Test cricket, James Anderson ruled out with injury, the hosts made an interesting selection opting for Middlesex’s Toby Roland-Jones in the squad for the first Test. Despite Anderson’s absence, Akram believes the English bowlers are always a threat in their home conditions and is worried that the Pakistan batsmen might struggle to negotiate the moving ball.
"It’s Pakistan’s batting that I’m worried about, even with James Anderson missing," Akram wrote in The Sunday Times. "Any player with a back-foot technique, or who is neither forward nor back, will struggle against these bowlers in these conditions."
“I hope Pakistan have done their homework because the new ball swings a lot more in England, and can reverse more too. Credit to England’s bowlers; they have learned not just how to reverse the ball but how to maintain it so that it reverses for longer,” he added.
Another surprise inclusion in the England squad was Gary Ballance, who last played for the national team during the 2015 Ashes series. He was found susceptible against the genuine pacers of Australia and New Zealand (in the series prior to the Ashes) and Akram advised the Pakistan bowlers to be consistent with their plan in working out the returning batsman’s weakness.
“From what I have seen of Gary Ballance he is mainly a back-foot player,” Akram said. “I would expect Pakistan to pitch the ball up and take it away from him, posting three slips and a gully, while keeping open point, mid-off and extra cover to encourage the drive.
"That way you have a chance of him nicking off. But you have to be consistent and patient. England is a great place to use the width of the crease against left-handers. Start off close to the stumps, and then once in a while go wide. You can go round the wicket, or over, as long as you keep good control of the ball,” he said.
Akram also had words of advice for skipper Misbah-ul-Haq on how to make the best use of leg-spinner Yasir Shah in English conditions as he compared the present bowling line-up to the one he had at his disposal during his times as skipper of the Pakistan cricket team.
“The great thing about having pace and spin working together is that it does not matter so much what the pitch is doing, or whether you win the toss. You have the bases covered," he said. “Myself, Waqar and Shoaib Akhtar used to operate in short bursts while Saqlain Mushtaq attacked or defended. One of us was always fresh to come back. Misbah-ul-Haq is an experienced captain with a good brain and knows how to handle his bowlers.”