Cricket has returned. Even amid the still rising concern across the world pertaining to coronavirus and the risks it wraps, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) pulled off a courageous and commendable job in hosting the West Indies team and successfully finishing off the series. And the board was prized with sensational come from behind win by the hosts in a first of its kind witnessed on home soil since 1888 as Windies were beaten 2-1 in the three-game contest. England ticked off all the boxes amid some splendid performances from Ben Stokes and Stuart Broad to put some life back into the World Test Championship. But there is a growing chorus of veteran cricketers who feel that a bigger challenge awaits come Thursday. England next face Pakistan, a team stacked with promising and exciting new talent Babar Azam, and rich and impressive history on English soil.
Pakistan's love for English conditions...
To come and win a Test series in England have always been one of the toughest tasks in world cricket in the modern era. Some of the best teams in the world, Virat Kohli's India being of late or the Aussies in the Ashes last summer, have all failed to bag a series win on English soil. England have lost just twice since 2010 - against South Africa in 2012 and against Sri Lanka in 2014. Not that Pakistan have been successful in their three attempts last decade, but two of their last tours ended in a draw -- 2-2 in 2016 and 1-1 in 2018. Pakistan, have in fact, the second-highest win-percentage in this period, after South Africa.
Touring sides in England since 2010...
Pakistan enjoy a good overall record against England with the head-to-head tie of 9-8 implying a neck-and-neck battle. In England, the equation stands 7-3 in favour of the hosts. Pakistan last won a Test series in England in 1996 and victory that helped them complete a hat-trick of series win on English soil winning in 1987 and 1992 as well. Since then, England have won two and three other ended in a draw.
What adds to their concern is that Pakistan haven't won a major Test series away from home since their 2010/11 tour of New Zealand. And both their last two tours - in South Africa and Australia - ended in a whitewash. Nevertheless, they would draw inspiration from the fact that they hold their best away record in England.
Pakistan away from home against major Test-playing nations...
|in New Zealand||2011-2016||4||1||2||0||1||0.5|
|in South Africa||2013-2019||6||0||6||0||0||0|
Pakistan's poor record Anderson and Broad
The famed pair of Anderson and Broad picked 16 wickets between themselves in the 2018 series and were particularly dominant against the Pakistan top-order. And who better than Shan Masood can explain the fact, one who was dismissed six times by Anderson in 57 deliveries. However, the veteran pacer has his best record against the Pakistan skipper, dismissing him seven times since their first meeting in 2010.
|Azhar Ali||James Anderson||153||443||7|
|Asad Shafiq||Chris Woakes||61||96||4|
|Shan Masood||James Anderson||15||57||6|
Pakistan's weapon - Shaheen Afridi and Yasir Shah
The one area the West Indies failed to capitalise on, more so due to lack of options, was the use of left-arm pace. Pakistan have Shaheen Afridi. In two previous series - in New Zealand and South Africa - England lost 20 wickets to left-arm swing. In recent years, Mohammad Amir and Mitchell Starc picked 11 wickets between themselves at 25 in England.
Pakistan would also like to make good use of Yasir Shah, especially in Southampton where conditions are suitable for spinners. In his last visit, in 2016, he had a contrasting campaign - picking 15 wickets at 18.13 in the two Tests Pakistan won and four at 125.50 in the other two Pakistan lost. Moreover, England's new opening pair are yet to face a leg-spinner in Test cricket.
- Babar Azam needs 150 runs more to reach the milestone of 2000 runs in Test cricket.
- Joe Root needs 36 more to become England's fifth-highest scoring Test captain and 84 more to complete 1000 runs in the rivalry contest.
- Anderson still 11 wickets shy of becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone of 600 wickets.
-The Broad-Anderson pair requires one more wicket to become the second-most deadly combination in Test cricket with 896 dismissals, after Warne-McGrath pair (1001 wickets).
- With 22 Test wins under his belt, a clean sweep against Pakistan would make Root England's second-most successful Test captain after Michael Vaughan (26).