With just over a month left until England’s clash against Pakistan on Wednesday 3 – Sunday 7 August, we take a look at some of the key battles on show, starting with Pakistan’s opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez against Warwickshire and England’s Chris Woakes.
Chris Woakes has emerged as one of the best all-rounders in the county game and has recently started to cement his place in the international side with brilliant performances against Sri Lanka in both Test and ODI formats. Chris, made his debut in 2013 at the Oval when England took on Australia and has made eight Test Match appearances, which have included 16 wickets. His best performance came only a few months ago when he took 3 wickets for just 9 runs against Sri Lanka.
In 2012, Woakes’s impressed the England selectors with 14 wickets at 22.42 in the Clydesdale Bank 40 and earned a call-up for England’s ODI squad to play South Africa. He toured India after Christmas, again playing two of the five matches. He held on to his place in the squad for England’s Champions Trophy campaign in 2013 but didn’t appear in any of the four matches.
He made his Test debut later that summer, bowling tidily enough on a flat pitch and showing some skill with the bat as England chased a target. He instead made a fine impression as captain of the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka and won a late recall to the World T20 squad in Bangladesh.
Deemed to have added the requisite pace to his bowling, he replaced Ben Stokes and played three Tests in succession against India in the summer of 2014. While he bowled without luck, he demonstrated the skill and control to suggest he will remain part of the England selectors’ plans for the foreseeable future.
I’ve always believed I’ve been good enough to play at Test level. My better spells have come when I’ve had a little period in the team.Chris Woakes
In the recent Test series against Sri Lanka, Ben Stokes’ involvement was curtailed by a knee injury at Headingley, and back came Woakes for another examination of his credentials. Woakes arrived in the side off the back of a career-best innings haul of 9 for 36 for Warwickshire against Durham at Edgbaston, which was an emphatic hint of the confidence coursing through his game, but from England’s very first practice sessions at Chester-le-Street, it was clear that he was back with some extra zip to his bowling.
Sure enough, according to the speed guns during the final two Tests, Woakes was consistently the fastest bowler on either team, hustling Sri Lanka’s batsmen with a blend of skill and speed that the man himself admits hasn’t always been a feature of his performances.
Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan’s opening batsman, first played for Pakistan in 2003 when he made his debut against Bangladesh in Karachi, but it was only in 2011 that he finally became a regular in the side in all formats.
He has made 47 Test Match appearance for his country, scoring 3350 runs at an average of 40.85 and no doubt Pakistan will look for Hafeez to get them off to a flying start against England in this Test Match series. His highest score against England came last year in Sharjah when he struck 151 to lead his country to a 127 run victory.
As a player, Hafeez gives the team plenty of options: he usually bats aggressively at the top of the order, but his organised technique also means he can switch to defensive mode if required. He is also one of the better fielders in the Pakistan team, especially in the point region. Despite these skills, Hafeez failed to create a regular place for himself in the Pakistan side in his first seven years in international cricket, primarily due to his inability to convert his starts into substantial scores. He scored plenty of 30s and 40s, laced with some exquisite cover-drives, but that only helped cement the opinion that Hafeez may forever remain a player whose potential exceeds performance.
We want to restart our journey of success with victory against England. The tour of England is very important for the team and myself.Mohammad Hafeez
To a large extent, that changed in 2011, as Hafeez put in consistent displays with both bat and ball in all forms of the game. It started in the series against South Africa in November 2010, and then continued through 2011, a year which fetched him two centuries in Tests and three in ODIs. He won an incredible ten Man-of-the-Match awards in international cricket that year, and became only the third cricketer – after Sanath Jayasuriya and Jacques Kallis – to score 1000-plus runs and take 30 or more wickets in ODIs in a calendar year.
See this battle unfold at Edgbaston
Who will have the edge this August when Woakes takes on Hafeez? Will Hafeez guide Pakistan to their first victory at Edgbatson or will Chris Woakes once again put in a superb England performance? Tickets are on sale for the Investec Test Match priced from just £31 for Adults and £6 for Under 16s. Simply click here or call 0844 847 1902.