Ed Hawkins says the toss will be the key at Old Trafford from Friday, meaning England could be at the mercy of the brilliant Pakistan leggie again...
"Pre-toss then Pakistan are obviously value. But it would be folly not to wait until the flip. We would expect England to win if the call goes their way"
Back side batting first
England v Pakistan
Friday July 22, 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
Chastened by defeat at Lord's, England have named a 14-man squad for Old Trafford. Adil Rashid, the spinner, the fit-again all-rounder Ben Stokes and James Anderson return.
All three could play. Indeed, Rashid and Anderson look certainties. Rashid should enjoy a wicket which assists spinners while there are doubts as to whether Anderson should have sat out the first Test at all.
That means Jake Ball and Steven Finn will make way. But if England pick Stokes they will have to drop a batter and James Vince is vulnerable. There would seem little point in axing Moeen Ali on a wicket which will suit his part-time spinners.
Pakistan are jubilant after the 75-run win. Punters are too as it is not often that they can be relied upon to be so consistently dominant over the course of five days.
Yasir Shah, with 10 wickets, went to the top of the world rankings and Stokes this week described him as the best legspinner since Shane Warne. That's a fair call.
But they are not a one-man team. Mohammad Amir made a triumphant return following his fixing ban with his left-arm bullets while Rahat Ali, unheralded of the three pacers, took England by surprise.
Their batting was solid enough. Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed all displayed their class. But they need more from Younis Khan, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali.
There have been six Tests in the last ten years at Old Trafford. The first-innings average in that period is 328. Pakistan were rolled for 119 on their last visit in 2006. Pace and bounce did for them on that occasion.
In recent years there has been a major spin threat which benefitted Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar against Bangladesh and New Zealand respectively. Moeen took four second-innings wickets in victory over India in 2014.
England are [2.0], Pakistan [3.85] and the draw is [4.1]. The key to finding a winner here is deciphering what the pitch will do.
If it spins - and there is a good chunk of historical evidence to suggest it will, not to mention England's selection pointer - then the toss will be crucial.
It is very hard not to see a repeat of Lord's if it spins. And by that we mean the team batting first having a major advantage. Neither team will relish a fourth-innings chase with the spin options available.
Pre-toss then Pakistan are obviously value. But it would be folly not to wait until the flip. We would expect England to win if the call goes their way. If it doesn't a 2-0 deficit awaits.
The only small negative about getting with Pakistan if they bat first is if the wicket offers pace early on. They were blown away 10 years ago and India, their neighbours, suffered a similar fate in 2014.
Teams from the Indian sub-continent do not relish pace and bounce and Stuart Broad and Anderson could have that shaky top order hopping about.
England batted only once when they beat India at the ground two years ago. Joe Root, batting at No 6, top scored with 77. He averages 43 there in first-class and is [3.5] jolly. Alastair Cook has two tons and two fifties in nine Test innings. He is [4.1]. Alex Hales has a first-class average of just 16 in four innings so the [5.1] isn't big enough.
None of Pakistan's top four impressed in game one. Younis's bizarre loss of form takes a chunk from the book with him at [4.6]. So that leaves us with centurion Misbah, Shafiq and Sarfraz to choose between. They are [5.1], [4.6] and [10.0] respectively.
Certainly Misbah looks value. He has ten Test tons and only once has he failed to pass 50 within three innings after three figures. Sarfraz appeals too. If Pakistan's top order falls to pace he may have to launch a rescue mission like MS Dhoni two years ago.
Ed Hawkins P-L
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