With the series tied 1-1, both England and Pakistan will be keen to take the crucial lead in the third Test at Birmingham, which will put them in a great position with one match to go
With the series tied 1-1, both England and Pakistan will be keen to take the crucial lead in the third Test at Birmingham, which will put them in a great position with one match to go. The series has been a see saw affair so far, with Pakistan putting up an inspired effort at Lord's to clinch the opening Test, and hosts England fighting back with a commanding performance to square the series at Old Trafford. Having outdone Pakistan in the previous match, England should go in as favourites. However, Pakistan would believe that they will be no pushovers, having shown at Lord's, that they have the men who can compete with England.
Batting is the major concern for both the teams heading into the crucial third Test. After delivering a pleasant surprise at Lord's, Pakistan were undone at Old Trafford courtesy two extremely poor batting efforts. There will be a lot of pressure on many of their underperforming men, not least of all the openers Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood. While it is very much true that opening is England is tough, Alastair Cook has proved that it is not impossible to score runs if one applies mind to the job. While Hafeez and Masood can definitely take a cue out of Cook's book, they need to devise their own technique to survive.
What hurt Pakistan most in the forgettable effort in the previous Test was the fact that the batting as a whole was a failure. Azhar Ali has figures that can be easily mistaken with that of a tailender. In fact, he has struggled so badly that some lower order batsmen have better numbers than him. Considering the lack of options, Ali should get another chance, but he needs to pull up his socks. The ineffectiveness of Younis Khan has been another major letdown for the visitors. He just hasn't looked anywhere near his usual self. In fact, if you take out the efforts of Misbah ul Haq and Asad Shafiq from the first Test, Pakistan have precious little to show.
Although England won in emphatic fashion at Old Trafford, they too have their batting woes going into the Birmingham match. They won the second Test primarily due to the stupendous efforts of Joe Root, who batted Pakistan out of the match with his marathon innings. Root got excellent support from skipper Cook, who chipped in with a century of his own. Root's taming of dangerman Yasir Shah was also crucial to England's empathic triumph at Old Trafford. But, the other opener Alex Hales has been a total disappointment. He will be under pressure to deliver, as will James Vince and Gary Ballance, who are trying to resurrect their Test careers.
In the bowling department, England will be hoping for big things from the deadly duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad. The ball will be expected to play tricks, so they can prove to be dangerous. With Ben Stokes picking up another injury, Steven Finn should get a chance to make a comeback. But, he needs to make an impact. Jake Ball is the other untested option England could explore. Although Moeen Ali isn't scoring runs, his value as a bowling all-rounder should keep him above Adil Rashid. As for Pakistan, they will be heavily dependent on Mohammad Amir and Yasir, hoping for support from Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz.