Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam Make Pakistan Stand Strongly vs. England

August 05 15:10 2016

pakNew Delhi, Friday, August 5 – England scored a total of 297 runs after Pakistan won the toss and invited them to bat first. Making optimal use of bowling strengths, Pakistan made the hosts feel the pressure that wasn’t easy, especially when they were playing after being defeated by humongous margin of 330 runs at the hands of England in the second Test match. Alastair Cook – led side pulverised them completely to level series and make it more interesting.

For the third Test, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Joe Root, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Alex Hales, Steven Finn and James Anderson were selected in the team. The players in extra were Jake Ball, Adil Rashid and Ben Stokes. To mention again, Pakistan Playing XI comprised Misbah-ul-Haq – the captain, Sami Aslam, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed – the wicket-keeper, Yasir Shah, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Amir, Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali. Those to sit on bench were Mohammad Rizwan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar, Imran Khan, Shan Masood and Wahab Riaz.

The challenge for the visitors was to not fumble when England bowlers were ready for attack. But that did not happen, particularly in the early hours of play as Mohammad Hafeez seemed to be in some sort of pressure and lost his wicket to J Anderson on a naught. He faced four deliveries but did not look confident at all. Ballance did not delay in taking a good catch, which made England believe that they can also make Pakistan batting order to topple. Not to forget that poor batting has been a problem of Misbah-ul-Haq’s men in the tournament. In the previous Test, which took place in Old Trafford in Manchester, as well, they scored 198 runs in first innings and 234 runs in second innings. At Lord’s in London, 1st innings ended on 339 and 2nd innings on 215. Despite the fact that the scores of opening Test were defended thanks to good bowling by Pakistan bowlers, batting was a problem for them.

If truth be told then from a fairytale beginning at Lord’s, Pakistan saw a thorough knockout in Manchester. The key issue is their batting that look weak and very doubtful when meet with pace and bounce. As of yesterday’s play, things were improved by the opener Sami Aslam and the next-man in Azhar Ali. The duo weaved a partnership of 181 runs. To cut a long story short, England had to wait for 62 overs to get another wicket, what they probably did not expect, keeping in mind ‘not so impressive’ batting by the opponents in the previous two matches. A throw by J Vince made Sami Aslam be a run out victim when he was 18 runs away from getting a ton. His knock of 82 runs in 176 balls included nine boundaries and a six.

It appeared that the opening batsman worked very hard during practice sessions that paid-off when England were coming with different bowling options. As a matter of fact, it was an innings that allowed Pakistan to get some grip in the match. The show stealer in true sense was Azhar Ali. He made sure to stay on the crease for as long as possible and pocketed runs through intelligent batting. When Woakes dismissed him after the ball went into the hands of Cook, the 31-year-old Ali scored 139 runs in 293 balls. His innings was studded with 15 boundaries and a six. Third wicket fell in the 90th over. Younis Khan was the man on the other end. He will resume batting at a score of 21, which comprised a couple of fours. Amid high expectations, both teams do not want to disappoint fans, who make sure to mark their presence in the stadium to encourage favourite party.

The squad that approaches the match with regards to the situation on the ground has higher chance of getting a hold in the game. As far as the way Pakistan played a day ago, the play seemed beautifully poised. Not to get surprised if both sides play extremely good cricket as it is all about taking the lead in the end. Confidence is supposed to keep players going throughout the match. After 90 overs, Pakistan have scored 257 runs for the loss of three wickets. Misbah, Shafiq, Sarfraz, Yasir Shah, Amir, Sohail Khan and Rahat Ali are yet to bat. Since being in slightly strong position as compared to Cook’s men, Pakistan will look forward to a score over 400 to 500. This will help them stay confident and be able to build psychological pressure on the rivals. If Pakistan continue to bat in style then it will bring some hope for them right from the beginning of the match today.

At the same time, the players of England would like seeing the opponents lose their wicket, succumbing to the bowlers who have been picked by the England skipper to do the job. He went with seven bowling options to stop Pakistan from scoring anything big. James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes bowled for 19 overs. Steven Finn was employed to bowl 16 overs.  Moeen Ali bowled for 15 overs and James Vince & Joe Root one over each. Anderson and Woakes have got one wicket apiece. So many changes in bowling attack is a symbol that England want a breakthrough as early as possible so that the team can be on track and not make any mistake.

It will be immensely interesting to notice how things go on the Day 3 of the contest at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Best for the hosts will be to get their second innings started and score humongous total, which can be tough target for Pakistan to chase. Till stumps on Day 2, Pakistan trail by 40 runs. Focus will be on not throwing their wickets as this will destroy all efforts of the top order batsmen, who did well. Bowling is Pakistan’s strengths and England are aware with this fact. As of now, motive is to make best use of the bowling talent and let batsmen getting dangerous on the field go back to the dressing room. The match is to begin in a short while.