England and Pakistan kick off the eagerly awaited Investec Test series today at Lords. We’re sure to see brilliant entertainment and world-class cricket as these are two fine sides who could by the end of the year be rated No. 1 in the Test rankings. As well as arguably the two best swing bowlers in the world, this series will also feature the world’s best spinner, one of the world’s most exciting all-rounders and the two highest run-scorers in the history of either Test team.
Nottinghamshire bowler Jake Ball will make his England debut in the first Test against Pakistan, which begins on today. Ball was in the squad for all three Tests during England’s 2-0 series win over Sri Lanka this summer but did not play. Ball has been given the nod ahead of Middlesex paceman Toby Roland-Jones and the 25-year-old will open the bowling alongside Stuart Broad in the absence of James Anderson, who misses out despite bowling in the nets at Lord’s on Tuesday and Wednesday.
James Anderson is not ready to return at Lord’s after a shoulder injury, though captain Alastair Cook expects him to be fit for the second Test. Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, has returned to training but Cook said there was a “high risk he could flare the injury up” if he played too soon.
Joe Root is a world-class player and one of the best all-round batsmen in the game.Alastair Cook, Captain of England
Joe Root will bat at three for England at Lord’s, with James Vince and Gary Ballance at four and five respectively, but Cook said talk about the Yorkshire batsman’s placing had become “a mountain out of a mole hill. To me, it doesn’t really matter what number you bat at.”
Pakistan’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq is ready to steady his team’s ship in the wake of the 2010 spot-fixing crisis. He has earned his longevity with a weight of runs too, taking him close to 4,500 runs in his 61 Tests, and is looking forward to playing at Lord’s.”There are no nerves yet,” he said. “That’s something you always wait for. It’s a big occasion – everyone wants to play at Lord’s, just to perform well here and get the respect of every spectator and supporter.
It’s obviously an advantage if one of the main bowlers of the opposition is missing, but at same time we know all their bowlers are really good in these conditions. We have to be really up to the mark.Misbah-ul-Haq, Captain of Pakistan
Misbah-ul-Haq has paid little attention to England’s batting changes, insisting his side must focus on their own strengths.”Sometimes when you have two or three batters struggling, that could be an area you can really exploit,” he said. “But I think you need to focus on the whole batting line-up. England are really good, especially in the lower-middle order. They can really hurt you.”
Pakistan will look to Younis Cook as their main man with the bat. With over 9,000 Test runs and 31 centuries to his credit, Younis Khan’s experience and class will be crucial if his side are to score enough runs to put the English batsmen under pressure and perhaps win a Test series in England for the first time since 1996.
Bowler Mohammad Amir returns to the ground at which, in August 2010, he deliberately bowled no-balls, for which he was later banned and jailed. Cook played down Amir’s return, while Misbah described it as a “big opportunity” for the 24-year-old. The left-arm seamer took four wickets for Pakistan against Somerset last week. “He is just focusing on what he has to come and do, and he’s really responding well to that,” said Misbah. “There are no worries for us.”
If England win, they will hold the trophies in every bilateral series against other Test nations. While not a unique achievement, it would be an impressive one and reflects well upon a side that may well still be a year or two away from its peak.
Snap up tickets for Edgbaston Test
Don’t forget that Edgbaton will host the third Investec Test of the series on Wednesday 3 – Sunday 7 August with tickets still available for all days. Tickets are priced from just £6 for Under 16s and £31 for Adults and can be purchased by calling 0844 847 1902 or clicking here to purchase online.