The Dummy's Guide to Cricket

Excited yet? Two days until the proper start of summer. Who cares that the weather in recent days has been reminiscent of a Greek island or that sun lotion sales have gone through the roof. Non cricketing people can have the weather. It’s yours. Get excited about some sun. Whoop de flipping burgers whoop. That is small fry when compared to those of us who cannot wait for the first ball of the summer to be bowled at Lord’s. Hope, expectation, spine tingling nerves; all the emotions will be there. And that’s just for the lucky sod ringing the bell. With the first ball so close to being bowled though, how much do you know about England’s opponents? We’ve heard all about our predictions for England’s squad, reaction to Bess and why Buttler is such a jammy sod, but do Pakistan pack a punch?

5 Little Ducks Went Out One Day

The last time Pakistan ventured onto these shores, clad in white sweaters was back in the murky summer of 2016. A time when Brexit had just occurred, Trump’s campaign was gaining momentum and kids were beginning to realise how boring T20 cricket was. Ah if only we could turn back time to the spring of that year and persuade people to believe again. In T20 cricket you understand. I’d never abuse my position to shove political jargon down your throat. Now REMAINING in that god forsaken year (shit total accident that), let’s have a quick (but not too quick, a three hour match is short enough kids) glance at how Pakistan fared without Russian interference (oh I hadn’t forgotten about Donald you duckface).

Over The Hills and Far Away

In that first test at Lord’s Pakistan completed an astonishing victory by 75 runs. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq defied death himself, becoming the oldest captain to score a test century at the ripe age of 42 years and 47 days. Closer to obtaining his bus pass than being able to legally buy scrap metal in England, Misbah shook of his rustiness and produced a golden display. He even did ten press ups upon completing the milestone, something I reckon would challenge me; let me try. Holy shite, thank goodness there’s no live cameras on this site cause after doing those press ups my face is as red as the England batsmen’s in their second innings. Embarrassing. The three lions required 283 for victory; main man Yasir Shah bit off 4 wickets and we tamely made 207.

England may have then proceeded to demolish some pretty appalling bowling (Rooty made a career best 254 at Old Trafford) going 2-1 up, but it was a pensioner who once again provided a stubborn cling on life in the fourth test. Hobble forward Younis Khan who, like a tortoise on acid, saw the ball as a beach ball making 218. The series finished all square, largely thanks to these two veterans of the game.

Mother Duck Said Quack Quack Quack Quack

Since then both have retired and who can blame them? But also since then Pakistan have been on an abysmal run of form, barely winning any tests. Here’s the problem then; there’s a gaping hole of experience and expertise in that side. Only five members of that victory at Lord’s in 2016 are in the touring party. Of those, batsman Asad Shafiq only averages 39.53, whilst left arm paceman Rahat Ali takes his wickets at 39 apiece. Yes Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed bring some stability, but the former is often as flaky as a 99 and the latter has the magnum challenge of focusing on batting, keeping and leading.

It may shock you that in their sixteen man squad, prior to the test against Ireland, four players were uncapped. Of those Imam-ul-Haq and Faheem Ashraf debuted in that inaugural game; the opener making a solid 74*. Whilst that was fairly impressive in the wake of a 12-3 collapse, he was facing Tim Murtagh and Boyd Rankin, the poor man’s poor man’s poor man’s James Anderson and Stuart Broad. Squaring off against two of England’s greatest ever bowlers is going to be unbelievably tough on this Pakistan batting line up. Aside from Azhar and Asad, none of that top seven have over 50 caps. Indeed ignoring the captain (39 tests), next highest is opener Fakhar Zaman seen just thirteen times. Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail and Shadab Khan are all in single appearance figures.

You get my drift. Yes they’ve played four warm up matches, having arrived on this isle back on 30th April, but who were they against? Kent, Northants, Ireland and Leicestershire. With all due respect to those sides, none of their bowling attacks come close to a trio of Jimmy, Broady and Stokes. If Woakes plays ahead of Wood, that’s four quality bowlers in English conditions. Indeed Woakes had his name on the honours boards two years ago, claiming 11-102. I suspect we may be hearing a few little quacks over the series…

That’s the batting well and truly tonked for six then. Younis Khan though believes Pakistan’s hopes rest on 23 year old Babar Azam. In an interview with website Omnisport (he didn’t answer my calls), Khan referred to Azam as ‘extremely stylish’ and able to fill the void left by himself and Misbah. Undoubtedly this tour will be Azam’s toughest test of his natural skills. If he’s able to fend off the seaming cherry, then perhaps Pakistan will manage to reach a decent score.

He’ll draw hope from Shai’s dynamic performance for the Windies at Headingley last year. Wielding his bat like a lightsaber, Hope evade(r)d Jimmy and Stuart’s blasts, forcing them to bowl short. Azam can’t be the Solo one to stand up though; other batsmen need to play around his Rey of light. Perhaps these youngsters will be fearless and cause spectators to Jar Jar Binks in amazement. Christ, I’ve got a bad feeling about the reviews of this article…

But Only Two Little Ducks Came Back

With England prone to the odd collapse or ten, Pakistan’s bowling will need to be spot on. Two of the bowlers from 2016 return, Mohammad Amir and Rahat Ali. Taking his wickets at 31.95 apiece, Amir may not be the most economical but he is adapt at utilising English conditions to his advantage, having a superb overseas stay with champions Essex last season. Although you would expect Cook and Stoneman to batten down the hatches, anything is possible.

England do have a slight advantage with only three right handers in their top seven. For those puzzled as to why this matters, left arm bowlers are more effective against right handed batsmen for the angles are difficult to master. Amir will naturally take the ball away from Root, Bairstow and Buttler, slanting it across their body. With the prodigious slope at Lord’s, this will be rather tricky for right handers to cope with. Add to that the fact, as the ball gets older, he may be able to swing it into the batsman and it could be rather sticky for the England skipper and co.

However England have Buttler who’ll just stand and deliver, smacking Amir and Ali around the ground. He’s fearless, right? For England’s sake let’s hope so cause with Mohammad Abbas providing the right arm fast option, it’s highly likely Buttler will be walking out to bat at 35-5. That’s before Pakistan turn to spin; their primary option being Shadab Khan, as Yasir Shah was left out of the party. Despite being the quickest spinner in his nation’s history to 100 wickets, Shah didn’t receive an invitation, so will be spending the days crying into his pillow, sipping whiskey and bemoaning his lack of social skills. We all do that when not invited to a party right? Right?

Pakistan have an enormous challenge on their plate. Their side is vastly inexperienced; aside from Ireland they’ve only played two tests in the past twelve months (yep losing both) and face an English bowling attack that are raring to go in home conditions. On paper England should demolish them. Need I say it though? Cricket isn’t played on paper. And that just about sums up the expert analysis of this article. Shocking.