It might seem an overdose of English cricket of late but in such unprecedented times, we could all be just thankful that we have live cricket to look forward to. After West Indies and Ireland, England are now all set to host Pakistan in a three-match Test series starting Wednesday (August 5).
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall - Matches 83 | England 25 | Pakistan 21 | Draw 37
Last five Tests - England 3 | Pakistan 2
Last five Tests in England – England 3 | Pakistan 2
While you could go for the above team, or pick your own team, cricket.com's Fantasy Research Centre based on algorithms have come up with six different teams that could help you fetch crucial points.
With all bio-secure protocols in place, the first Test between England and Pakistan will be played at Old Trafford, the same venue as two of the England-West Indies Tests last month.
A total of three Test matches have been played at Old Trafford since the start of 2018 and one look at the numbers will suggest that batsmen should have a good time here. In the last two years, batsmen have scored runs at an average of 32.5 here, easily the best in England while the bowlers have picked up a wicket only every 60.6 balls, the worst during the time frame. The average first innings score here over the last 2 years is a high 445!
This was quite evident in the two Tests between England and West Indies as well. Having said that, both England and Pakistan boast of excellent pace bowlers who are good enough to challenge any side in the world.
Being a good batting surface, it goes without saying that you should include as many top-order batsmen in your side as possible. But clouds are expected to make an appearance in Manchester on at least 3 of the 5 days which will assist the fast bowlers.
As is the case with most surfaces in England, pacers have held the upper-hand in Manchester. In Tests here since the start of 2018, they have picked up 77 wickets striking every 55.9 balls as compared to spinners who have returned 18 wickets at a strike rate of 90.5.
The likes of Stuart Broad, Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi could make it your side. You could also go for Ben Stokes and Chris Wokes. As far as the batsmen are concerned, Joe Root, Babar Azam, Azhar Ali and Ollie Pope could be considered.
There could be a few interesting matchups too on display.
Shan Masood has a woeful record against James Anderson. He has come up against the speedster six times in Test cricket and has been dismissed by him each time.
Similarly, Azhar Ali, who has fallen to Anderson seven times in Test cricket, will have to be really wary of the pacer.
Ben Stokes averages a mere 6 in test cricket against Wahaz Riaz and will like to steer clear of the fast bowler
Joe Root might not have had a great series against West Indies as compared to his lofty standards but his numbers against Pakistan and in Manchester, in general, make him a viable captain candidate. In 17 Test innings, against Pakistan, Root has struck 916 runs averaging a strong 61.07 which includes six half-centuries and a double ton. His record at Old Trafford is also exemplary where he averages a strong 72.5 in 13 innings. His highest score of 254 came against Pakistan at this very venue back in 2016. Our Criclytics Player Projection says Root will score 61 to 92 runs in the first Test. Having secured a tough series win against West Indies, Root will hope for a similar result against Pakistan.
Easily Pakistan’s best batsman over the last two years, Babar Azam has been in a league of his own compared to the rest of his teammates. The sixth-ranked batsman in ICC Test rankings, Babar has scored 1375 runs in 26 innings since the start of 2018 averaging a strong 65.48. He is almost 400 runs of his closest competition Asad Shafiq in the same amount of innings played. Babar has played a lone Test in England, back in 2018 where he scored a fluent 68*. The Manchester surface has in the past assisted batsmen and if he gets his eye in, Babar is one player who can help you attain a lot of points. Our Criclytics Player Projection says Babar will score 134-201 runs in the first Test.
Stuart Broad was peeved at being left out of the first Test against West Indies and rightfully so. He has easily been England’s best bowler over the last year or so, and showed his class in the second and third Test. The paceman is England’s highest wicket-taker in Tests since the start of 2019 with 68 wickets in 31 innings at an average of 21. He also has an excellent record in Manchester where he has picked 34 wickets in 15 innings striking every 40.8 balls. Broad finished the series against West Indies as the highest wicket-taker across both sides and will be keen to continue with the same form. The Criclytics Player Projection has Broad picking 6 to 8 wickets in Manchester
Shaheen Afridi might only be 8 Tests old but he has already left quite a mark in his short career. He is Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker since the start of 2019 with 22 wickets to his name in 8 innings and a strike rate of 52.3. The conditions in England will certainly suit Afridi and he is one bowler who if he gets on a roll can help you secure a lot of points. Our Criclytics Player Projection says Afridi will pick 5-7 wickets in the first Test.