How the Bookies See it
|Top England Batsman||
|Top Pakistan Batsman||
Buttler Back as England Bid to Regroup
England have sprung a couple of surprises in their squad selection for the first match of the season, as they strive to bounce back from a miserable winter in which they failed to win a single Test. They were hammered 4-0 in the Ashes and then lost 1-0 to New Zealand, prompting new national selector Ed Smith to make changes ahead of Pakistan’s visit.
Jos Buttler is back at No.7 despite his lack of recent first-class cricket, in a move which is sure to excite fans of his destructive T20 batting style. It may not go down well with the purists who prefer an orthodox technique, however. The batting order has also been rejigged, with James Vince jettisoned, Joe Root moving up to first drop and wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow promoted to No.5. In the bowling department, uncapped spinner Dom Bess has been brought in to complement experienced seamers James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes.
Pakistan Keen to Fulfil Potential
Pakistan have a reputation as poor travellers in recent years, and their form going into this tour will hardly inspire confidence among fans. They have restructured their batting order following a 2-0 loss to Sri Lanka in the autumn of 2017, but were still far from convincing in a narrow five-wicket victory over Test newcomers Ireland earlier this week. The way that Ireland’s modest attack troubled Pakistan’s top order will have had the likes of Anderson and Broad licking their lips, and there is a huge onus on players such as Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to perform well in such an inexperienced batting line-up.
Pakistan’s bowlers should enjoy themselves in England, though. Mohammad Amir, back at the scene of the infamous no-ball scandal of 2010, remains an exceptionally skilful new-ball operator and will be ably assisted by Mohammad Abbas, Rahat Ali or Hasan Ali. Shadab Khan’s leg spin is the type of bowling which could tie England in knots, although it is unlikely that the early-season conditions will suit him too much.
Pakistan have the ability to cause England some problems and their match against Ireland could prove to be the perfect workout ahead of the first Test at Lord’s. However, this should be a significant step up in class for the tourists and it is hard to see the Pakistan batters prospering on a surface which offers any assistance to swing specialists such as Anderson.
Pakistan’s best chance of success is if their match-winning bowlers come to the party. England openers Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman are both under pressure, while captain Root has not shown much form for Yorkshire at the start of the season. It is no secret that he would prefer to bat lower than No.3. England still look far too strong, though, and punters may wish to consider a flutter on Bairstow as the team’s top batter. The wicketkeeper was one of the few players to come out of the winter with his reputation enhanced. He has scored runs at county level during the early part of the season and he is sure to relish the chance to bat at No.5.
Sports.net’s Top Tip
|Top England Batsman||
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.