England v Pakistan
Thursday 13 August 11.00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England made it three wins on the spin and busted their poor record in the first Test of a series with a three-wicket thriller over Pakistan at Old Trafford.
All has not been rosy since, though. Ben Stokes will miss the rest of the summer to spend time with family and he leaves a hole (Chris Woakes will argue otherwise). Not supposed to bowl in Manchester, a desperate England had to call on his golden arm despite picking the extra bowler. Stokes, of course, obliged with two crucial wickets to peg back Pakistan in their second innings.
For pure numbers about the difference Stokes makes, click here.
Dan Lawrence, primed to take Stokes's spot, has also left the group because of a family issue. That means that England are likely to hand Zak Crawley the No.3 position.
There has been criticism, as usual, of Jofra Archer and there are rumblings that Mark Wood could get a game. Archer is a victim of his own success. He's so quick and elastic that people expect more. The chart below shows he is better than any of his peers at the same stage.
Possible XI Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson .
After first 10 Tests
Archer 38 wkts at 29.21
Woakes 34 at 25.58
Anderson 29 at 35.75
Stokes 28 at 40.10
Wood 26 at 40.65
Broad 26 at 45.23
Curran 18 at 30.05
Pakistan can usually be relied upon to make a mess of things when hot favourites. And they did just that on day four at Old Trafford in game one.
Seemingly cruising with England reduced to at 117 for five, defending 277 on a turning pitch with pace for the fast men Pakistan contrived to lose. Yasir Shah seemed to lose his nerve and their failure to recognise Woakes as a batter who hates it at his body was a significant tactical error.
The game should have been won long before, though. There was a crucial and needless mistake on day three and Pakistan were unfortunate bad light hurt them on day one.
Asad Shafiq's run out was the unforgiveable rick. He and Mohammad Rizwan were busy milking the bowling and taking the game away from England. And had Shan Masood and Babar Azam been able to continue their own plundering on the first evening, the contest might not even have been close.
Possible XI Masood, Abid, Azhar, Babar, Shafiq, Rizwan, Shadab, Yasir, Afridi, Abbas, Naseem
Options for innings runs
It's back to the Ageas Bowl, scene of the first Test of the summer. West Indies produced a brilliant display to bowl England out for 204 in the first innings and they went on to win comfortably, chasing 200 with four wickets to spare.
That surface suited their battery of canny pacers. England left out Stuart Broad. Will we see a similar wicket which rewards bowlers who bend their backs? The heat wave in the south east makes it harder to call and one suspects this could be a road. There was precious little turn in the game. That could change because of the heat.
That might suggest taking on Betfair Sportsbook's quote of England over 301.5 first-innings runs is a bet at 5/6. Appearances can be deceptive, though. England have busted that mark only four times in their last 13 at home. Pakistan's bowling is their strength also. In their last nine Tests (two years) away from home they have kept the opposition under that figure.
Sportsbook go 5/6 Pakistan over/under 265.5. They have been under four times in their last nine away from home. England have kept teams under the mark five times in their 13 home Tests.
There have been only four Tests played in Southampton. The first-innings scores (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by team bat-ting first or second) read: 184-d/569-1/246-1/204-2.
Day one Early morning showers clear for a cloudy day
Day two Heavy cloud but no showers until afternoon
Day three Cloudy, no showers
Day four Afternoon showers
Day five Showers throughout
Draw lay alert
England are 2.166/5, Pakistan 4.707/2 and the draw is 3.02/1. Of those prices, only Pakistan's do not appeal for a wager.
After their disastrous fourth-innings bowling effort, it is hard to see how Pakistan recover. Azhar Al's captaincy - not helped by his abysmal form with the bat - has been questioned and Pakistan are rarely an efficient unit when manoeuvres are underway for a new leader. Their performance also begged the question: if they can't win from that position, where can they win from? It was the dream situation for them which turned into a nightmare.
The home team's odds catch the eye, then. This is a rarity and can be put down to Stokes's absence. We're not too worried about Stokes not being available because of the form of Woakes and Stuart Broad. The pair have been sensational. And as part of a fearsome bowling unit which does not let up, Pakistan's flaky batting will always keep them in the game. Batting first, England will be cut but we will look for that 2.166/5 starting point in-play.
The stalemate is another surprise. We expected bigger with the forecast hardly desperate. That jumping off point suggests we might be able to get a lay in at around the 2.506/4 mark with a decent partnership in that first-innings.
Joe Root is 10/3 jolly for top England runscorer honours in the first dig. Ollie Pope, who has back-to-back wins, is cut to 4/1. Jos Buttler's form means the 8/1 might have strong appeal. For Pakistan, Shan Masood's brilliant ton was wasted but he doesn't have favourite status. He is 3/1, behind Babar Azam who is 11/4.
TO find out who is value for tops honours, who isn't and a cracking Babar bet, click here.
A deep data dive on the Pakistan squad on Cricket...Only Bettor