England’s approach in announcing their final XI for tomorrow’s fourth and final Test against Pakistan at the Oval oozes confidence from from every pore of a team well set and well prepared. They have learnt their lessons from the Lord’s debacle and have proved that by convincing and comprehensive victories at Old Trafford and Edgbaston. They have kept the same combination that won the Birmingham Test.
There were suggestions that Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid, who is yet to play a Test this year, might come into the side in place of either Vince (thus “weakening” the batting or in place of Steve Finn which would have meant replacing a paceman with a spinner). Vince passed a fitness Test for a dislocated finger and was given the nod. The injury had occurred in the dying moments of the 3rd Test when Vince dropped a catch. As such England decided to go unchanged to London for the final bout.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid was released to play for his county Yorkshire in Thursday’s T20 Blast quarter-final against Glamorgan in Cardiff. The Nottinghamshire pace bowler Jake Ball was the other player in the 13-man squad omitted from the final XI and released for county duty with Notts. What the England captain explained about the entire situation is worth noting.
Cook said:”I think the pitch will turn but our four seamers are bowling well and Mo (Moeen Ali) took a massive stride in that last game.” Asked about Rashid, he added: “If we were 3-0 up it might have been different but the series is very much alive.
“We stuck with Mo because he’s such a valuable member of the side with the runs he has scored and in the last game he bowled really well.
“Adil is clearly going to get a chance in the winter, he’s still got one-day cricket here to keep that international experience going and when he gets that chance he’s got to take it.”
All settled in advance. No sleepless night for any one. Relax and be fresh for the Real Test at the Oval tomorrow. No ifs and buts. No looking at the 22 yards or gazing at the weather.
So the England’s final line up will be: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson.
On the other hand Pakistan are struggling to find the right XI for the Real Test tomorrow. Mickey Arthur “hailed” as the master mind of the Lord’s triumph and the panacea to all of Pakistan’s cricketing woes, has suddenly after those two humiliating defeats have once again been reduced to a mere mortal. He has confessed to having sleepless nights. He has even (and perhaps rightly) considered playing both Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar plus 3 pace bowlers and dropping Hafeez thus reducing the batting.
As some wag commented Zulfiqar Babar is capable in any case of making more runs than Hafeez in current form!! Then ther is the case of Iftikhar Ahmed who we are told is capable of bowling off spin. If he comes in place of Hafeez will he open or the batting order will be shuffled. A middle order batsman can and should be tried as opener.
Pakistan has several cases of middle order batsmen being pushed up to open and being successful in that slot. Those who come readily to mind are Majid Khan, Mohsin Khan, Ramiz Raja. So why not Iftikhar Ahmed? The same case was with Azhar Ali in the ODIs . He did not have a place in the side except in the opening batting spot and that is where he bats in the shorter format and of which he is also the captain. At some stage even Sarfraz Ahmad was being considered as an opening batsman. If so now is the time for the suggestion to be implemented. Probably neither Hafeez nor Sohail Khan are in Arthur’s team.
The dropping of Hafeez may be unanimous (even Hafeez himself should vote for that) but on Sohail Khan the other members of the tour management may have different ideas. Bringing back Shan Masood or even trying out Mohammad Rizwan though worth a shout, will not solve the problem.
So the Pakistan line up will probably be (not necessarily in batting order: Sami Aslam, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Sohail Khan/Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad/Zulfiqar Babar.
However let us leave the matter in the wise hands of Manager (who should know the Oval inside out or what is the expression “like the palm of his hand”), the Head Coach, the captain and whoever is involved in the selection process. The Chief Selector was there at Edgbaston to see the abject defeat and his input could be useful. Also let us not forget that the Chairman has been with the team throughout the series and his view can be sought. Whoever plays in the end , we wish them all luck and success.
The reason given by Misbah at the press conference after the Birmingham fiasco that our batsmen were confused about facing reverse swing has confounded, astounded, dumbfounded, amazed and astonished me!! The batting colleagues of the inventors of reverse unable to distinguish between reverse and orthodox swing!! Surely the maestros like Sarfraz, Imran, Aqib, Wasim, Waqar and others will be most embarrassed if not upset.
And what is Grant Flower the batting coach doing if he cannot teach the “boys” how to recognize reverse swing. His brother Andy and he notched up massive scores against some brilliant reverse swing bowling in their days. Was that really Misbah speaking? What next. Tomorrow we may have a position where Pakistani batsmen will be mesmerized by the floaters, doosra and the “wrong uns” (googlies).
England are in the advantageous position of not losing the series even if they go down in this test. Pakistan will have to win this one to draw level which they will say is a “moral victory.” There is also a race for the top Test rankings and a 3-1 success for England may catapult them to the top spot or thereabouts. Pakistan will have to fight tooth and nail so as not to slide downwards as happened with them in the shorter formats.
It has been raining in the north and Scotland but that will clear away in a day or two. Lower down and particularly in London it is sunny and pleasant. Towards the week end and going into next week a heat wave is forecast with warm air moving in from the Spanish side. The sunshine will be there but it will be warm and the temperatures may soar as high as in the 30+ Centigrade.
The Oval pitch is said to play fairly well for the first three days; later on it takes a bit of spin. However let us wait and watch how this one behaves. Best of luck to both the sides. Have a good one gentlemen.