A lot to ponder for England before Soton Test | The Daily Star
05:41 PM, August 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 05:49 PM, August 12, 2020

A lot to ponder for England before Soton Test

England, who had lost the first Test in eight of their last Test series before the Pakistan series, were able to buck the trend against Azhar Ali's men as they staged a remarkable comeback and won the series opener by three wickets at Old Trafford in Manchester last Saturday. 

Another victory in the second Test of the three-Test series starting tomorrow at the Ageas Bowl will see the hosts clinch a first Test series victory against Pakistan in a decade. However, despite being on the back of a convincing Test-series win -- against West Indies last month that marked the return of international cricket following the coronavirus enforced halt -- and a rare winning start to this series, England are still having to face a few difficult situations ahead of tomorrow's Test. 

Will England go with experienced James Anderson who took just one wicket in the opener? Can England trust Jos Buttler with the gloves behind the stumps after the 29-year-old's sub-par performance in the first Test? What can England do to get the best out of pacer Jofra Archer? And, the most important of all, how will England go about replacing star all-rounder Ben Stokes who is set to miss the rest of the series owing to family reasons? 

When it comes to replacing Stokes, the obvious move for England would be to recall batsman Zak Crawley, who has missed out on the last two matches while an extra bowler has been deployed because of Stokes' injury problems.

Buttler underlined his skill in a run-chase last week but the wicketkeeper, by his own admission, had a poor match with the gloves. The wicketkeeper batsman missed three chances behind the stumps in the first innings -- two of them against opener Shan Masood who eventually scored 156. While Buttler has all but secured his place in the squad for tomorrow's game after weighing in with a crucial 75 during England's chase of 277 in the first Test, England do have the option to recall Ben Foakes, widely regarded as a better keeper, and play Buttler as a specialist batsman.

England are also in the middle of a sequence of six Tests in seven weeks, a gruelling schedule that has seen them adopt a policy of rotating their quicks.

James Anderson, England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker bristled at talk he was considering retirement after a meagre match haul of 1-97 at his Lancashire home ground last week meant the 38-year-old has taken just six wickets at an expensive average of 41 in three Tests this season.

He could now make way for left-armer Sam Curran, who has won all his eight home Tests, or fast bowler Mark Wood.

And while England have used Archer to open the innings in the first Test, skipper Joe Root gave only five overs to the pacer in the second innings which could well mean that England have been seemingly unsure of how to get the best use of Archer, who has been in the shadows of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes in recent weeks. Considering all these, it would be interesting to see what pace attack England will go with. 

Same goes for Pakistan too as they could also bring in some changes in their pace attack for the Southampton Test. Should Pakistan have concerns about the fitness of their pace trio of Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah, they could bring in another quick such as Sohail Khan.

Pakistan played two leg-spinners at Old Trafford, with Shadab Khan backing up Yasir Shah, but they could now deploy a fourth seamer if they feel the Ageas Bowl pitch won't take as much turn.





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