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Second Test: England a happy bunch, task cut out for Pakistan

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England might have come out the unlikely winner after four days of absorbing Test cricket at the Emirates Old Trafford, but as the action now shifts to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, both the hosts and Pakistan will start from scratch.

Though the second Test at the home of Hampshire County Cricket Club will mark a fresh start for the hosts and visitors, both teams will be carrying the emotional baggage from the first Test, which, for a large part, looked to be headed Pakistan’s way.

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While Azhar Ali’s men would be gutted not to have closed out the game in their favour even after winning more sessions, England would be a happy bunch still basking in the glory of the thrilling Old Trafford win and looking to take the momentum into the next Test.

So how do the two teams stack up ahead of the Ageas Bowl Test? While the takeaways were plenty for both after the Old Trafford encounter, England, quite clearly, would be taking more positives into the next Test.

Positives to build on

England vs Pakistan- Rory Burns and Dom Sibley
England’s opening pair, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, struggled at Old Trafford and will have to show better technique.(Credits: Twitter/ICC)

Ahead of the opening Test, the English think-tank had been sweating on the indifferent form of captain Joe Root and keeper Jos Buttler.

However, four days on, the England management would take comfort from Root’s proactive leadership and promising second dig with the willow as well as Buttler’s match-winning 75. 

England’s opening pair, Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, however, struggled at Old Trafford and will have to show better technique to survive the initial burst from Pakistan’s new ball bowlers and give their team a solid foundation to build on.

Root’s strokeful 42 in the second innings at Old Trafford will give the think-tank hope that a big score isn’t far away.

Ollie Pope showed enough glimpses of his talent with a fluent 62 in the first innings, but the management would want him to kick on to a big score.

England vs Pakistan- Ollie Pope
Ollie Pope showed enough glimpses of his talent with a fluent 62 in the first innings, but must start converting it into a big score. (Credits: Twitter/ICC)

England will be without their all-round ace Ben Stokes for the remainder of the series as he has withdrawn due to a ‘family matter’. Though his exit is a blow for England, they will consider bringing in a like-for-like in Sam Curran, who has given a fairly good account of himself with the ball and willow whenever picked.

Though English think-tank has included uncapped pacer Ollie Robinson in the squad for the second Test, one doubts if he will come in as a direct replacement for Stokes.

What would surely have gladdened the management the most is Buttler’s return to form. His masterclass knock and 139-run partnership with Player of the Match Chris Woakes should surely keep him in the XI through the length of the series.

His glovework, though, remains a matter of concern. 

There are no major worries around England’s bowling as all five of their quicks – Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Stokes and Woakes – looked in fine fettle and were in the wickets column.

Plenty to worry about

England vs Pakistan- Babar Azam
Pakistan’s experienced batters would have to dig deeper and come up with much better performances. (Credits: Twitter/ ICC)

Pakistan, meanwhile, have plenty to worry about. Even as opener Shan Masood scored a determined ton in the first innings at Old Trafford, the batters around him, barring Babar Azam, failed.

While his opening partner Abid Ali looked distinctly out of sorts in alien conditions, skipper Azhar Ali and Asad Shafique failed to give a good account of themselves. Babar scored a polished 69 in the first innings but failed in the second. 

Their experienced batters would have to dig deeper and come up with much better performances if they are to challenge this England team in their own backyard.

Bowling-wise, Pakistan doesn’t have much to sweat on. Their opening bowlers, Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Afridi, bowled well and were able to provide initial breakthroughs.

However, Abbas clearly wasn’t as effective when it came to operating with the old ball. Hence, the captain has to use him wisely. Perhaps a long opening spell and short bursts with the old ball is the way to go with Abbas.

While young Naseem Shah bowled with a good head of steam at Old Trafford and picked up two wickets to show for his efforts, the Pakistan think-tank might want to bring in the vastly-experienced Wahab Riaz for the second Test.

It would be interesting to see if the management persists with young Shadab Khan at the Rose Bowl. While he scored a valiant 40-odd at Old Trafford, Shadab hardly got a decent bowling spell in the Test.

His spin partner Yasir Shah was the top wicket-taker for Pakistan in the first Test and would be expected to carry on in the same vein at the Rose Bowl.

While there’s no saying which way the second Test would go, what’s for certain is more edge-of-the-seat action as Pakistan battle to square the series.

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