England v Pakistan
Friday 21 August 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England could bring in pace
Amidst the gloom and rain in Southampton, England had the best of the second Test. They would have expected to turn the screw on Pakistan and claim the series after bowling out the tourists for just 236.
With only 134 overs possible, however, England's management will be pleased Stuart Broad and James Anderson have had their feet up for more than six days. No doubt Broad and Anderson go again. There could still be a change in the pace department.
Mark Wood could make his first appearance of the series. Or Jofra Archer, who continues to be treated shabbily, could come back. The attack of Broad-Anderson-Woakes-Curran was samey and they may need to extract some life from a dull surface.
Possible XI Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Broad, Anderson, Wood
Pakistan got out of jail in the second Test, giving them the chance to salvage a drawn series when they probably don't deserve one.
It should not be forgotten how they threw away the chance for a lead by losing their nerve in game one. And there wasn't much gumption from their top order in game two, either. It's time for Babar Azam to score big instead of looking pretty. Their batting is shaky in the extreme and he is likely suffering from the pressure of knowing that he's surrounded by a house of cards.
The rest would have done their pace triumvirate a world of good, however, and they should pick the same dangerous pace attack.
Possible XI Masood, Ali, Azhar, Babar, Shafiq, Fawad, Rizwan, Yasir, Afridi, Abbas, Naseem.
The first-innings scores (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by team batting first or second) in Tests at Southampton read: 236-d/184-d/569-1/246-1/204-2.
There has been much talk about the wicket this week with some suggestion the same strip could be used from game two. Obviously that has a huge impact on our strategy. At the moment, ground staff are said to be "hopeful" of a new wicket.
A worn pitch (only with two-and-a-bit innings) should make batting tougher as the game goes on. Persistent cloud cover is also expected to bring the swing bowlers to the fore.
Pakistan's runs are likely too popular to short. They have been under 265.5 five times in their last ten away from home. England have kept teams under the mark six times in their 14 home Tests.
Day one First session cloudy Sunny spell post lunch
Day two 30% chance of rain throughout the day
Day three 30% chance of rain lunch to tea
Day four Clear skies apart from shower chance at lunch
Day five 30% chance of showers second session
Brains beats brawn
England are 1.865/6 for victory, down from 2.1211/10. Pakistan are 3.953/1 and the draw is 4.707/2.
The latter two prices are dependant on what wicket is being used. If it's old, the former should come in and the latter should go out. Despite their failure in the first match, surely Pakistan can up the ante if they bat first and put pressure on England on a crumbling surface in the fourth?
If England were to bat first we don't doubt that Pakistan will cause them problems. Rory Burns is having a torrid time, Dom Sibley still looks awkward and Joe Root's form is poor. So we're looking for an in-play trade with the pitch and toss on our side. Around the 2.1011/10 mark is not unlikely given the brittleness of the top order.
As for the stalemate, another looks unlikely. The forecast is not as poor as some might suggest but early start times have been agreed for 10:30 am if overs are lost.
Root an awful bet
Root is a terrible jolly at 3/1 for top England bat with Sportsbook. Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler will appeal at 5s and 10s respectively.
The 10/3 Sportsbook offer about Yasir Shah will be of interest, but again the pitch is decisive. The used surface would help him hugely. Babar is 5/2 for top Pakistan runscorer but there is no evidence he should be so short.