From AZ Aamir
MANCHESTER: Pakistan will be put to a real test when they will face England in the first Test of the three-match Test Series which will begin here at Old Trafford today (Wednesday).
The match starts at 3pm PST. Pakistan already announced the 16-member squad for the first Test yesterday (Tuesday). The final squad will be unveiled today just before the start of the game. However skipper Azhar Ali confirmed that Abid Ali and Shan Masood would open the innings.
It would be interesting to see whether pacer Sohail Khan would be given an opportunity or not. The right-armer has impressed during the practice games held at Worcester and Derby. He also has a strong last record of superb bowling in English conditions.
It is also expected that keeping in view the existing turn on the wicket as seen recently during the series between England and the West Indies Pakistan may opt for a couple of spinners.
Pakistan Test captain Azhar Ali on Tuesday said that his charges have worked very hard and are raring to go into the first Test of the three-match series in connection with the ICC Test Championship against England.
“We have made best possible preparation during the last month which we got. The boys worked really hard and excited and are raring to go. We would try to transfer our preparation to the first Test tomorrow,” Azhar told a virtual news conference.
When asked about his debut series a decade ago Azhar said it was a learning phase for him. “I learnt from that series. I was playing against one of the best teams in the world and I had a contribution in the two innings of the two Tests of that series,” Azhar recalled.
“And from there I learnt that if I could do better against a tough side then it could be not difficult for me to bat well in future against other oppositions. Seniors did not let me down and always boosted my morale and that was important and I learnt how to take challenge,” Azhar said.
Azhar said that as a skipper he feels very comfortable.
“There are two types of people. Some, who have played cricket, think that they think in the right way and so impose their thinkings on others. Our current coaching staff empowers you and prefers your thinking . Mostly cricketers think in the same way. They look at the conditions and their thought process is the same. As a captain I am quite comfortable as I am getting good guidance as well as freedom,” Azhar said.
“My performance in the past few tests did not remain consistent and as a player I am not happy with that. I have worked hard and will try to perform. It’s very important series for Pakistan. All players are important but as senior players me and Asad Shafiq know that our performance would be most important for Pakistan,” Azhar said.
“COVID-19 is there but as Muslims we believe that we should face this through patience. All players are very excited. And the most important thing is that we are going to play the game which we love more,” he said.
“The credit goes to the PCB who agreed for the series and the players worked very hard. We have tried our level best to live together and did not leave any player alone in this time. I think we enjoyed the camp,” Azhar said.
“As a cricketer you will have to take challenges. England have been tough always. The best thing is that in the last few series our team’s performances remained good. This is a sort of motivation for us and we will not only try to repeat those performances but would also try to further improve them,” he said.
“Yes pace attack is a bit inexperienced but the way they bowled in the last two two series I feel myself lucky as skipper that we got so quickly such good bowlers. In batting we have more experienced players but overall our combination is very good,” Azhar said.
“You cannot win a Test until you deliver in all three departments. You have to be on top of the game if you are to beat England team,” said Azhar when asked which department could play a vital role in deciding the series.
“In the start thoughts were that fast bowling would make the difference but after a few matches between England and West Indies we believe that spin bowling also could be the key. InshaAllah if we put some good total then we have bowling resources through them we could win the game,” the skipper said.
“Yasir’s role will be key as the way he has won for us the matches. Our whole focus is on the first Test so that we could set the tone and make the rest of the series easy for us,” Azhar said. “Whatever the conditions would be as a batting unit we will try to fight it out and play the difficult phase successfully as you know we had scored more than 300 runs at Lord’s in tough conditions,” Azhar said.
Azhar ruled out the impression that batsmen had to struggle in the practice games, reiterating that bowling is inexperienced but capable.
“I think every batsman in practice games has played two innings well. Yes on certain points we put the conditions in order to put the batters under challenge and those were tough wickets but I hope Test wicket will be better than that,” Azhar said.
“Conditions are not in one’s hands as you know weather is quite unpredictable here and we will look into the conditions before deciding whether we have to go with two spinners or one,” Azhar said.
“Yes if I am able to score runs I will try to take them to the maximum as a good batsman always tries to convert hundred into maximum,” Azhar said.
Azhar confirmed that they would play openers Abid Ali and Shan Masood.
“In the last Test at Pindi both Abid and Shan had batted really well. Imam-ul-Haq has worked really hard during practice but unfortunately only two openers can play and we will continue with the pair of Abid and Shan,” Azhar said.
“Definitely all the Test teams have allrounders in the shape of medium pacers or fast bowlers which is very handy. We have Faheem Ashraf and we will try to make him ready for the Test as soon as possible as he has very good opportunity as we have no such allrounders. It would be vital in future to develop such allrounders,” Azhar said.
“Every match is a new match but the last record motivates you and carrying that confidence we will field in the first Test,” he said.
He said that Younis Khan’s presence would be very helpful.