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England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Lord's - Preview

Without injured Anderson and recuperating Stokes, host faces stiff challenge against spirited Pakistan

England v Pakistan, 1st Test, Lord's - Preview - Cricket News
England will be without James Anderson, its all-time leading injured wicket-taker, and Ben Stokes, the sidelined allrounder.
Mohammad Amir will return to the longest format after six years as England and Pakistan lock horns in the first Test at Lord's from Thursday (July 14). Incidentally, Amir’s last Test, in August 2010, was at the same venue when he took 6 for 84 in the first innings. He retains his ability to swing the ball late at a sharp pace, as he showed with a first-innings haul of 3 for 36 in Pakistan's tour opener against Somerset.
 
But Amir is far from the only threat in a Pakistan bowling line-up also featuring Wahab Riaz, his fellow left-arm quick, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah, the legspinner.
 
The key to the series could lie with both teams' top-order batsmen. England was repeatedly bailed out of early collapses against Sri Lanka by Jonny Bairstow, the in-form middle-order batsman.
 
Pakistan has a strong middle order in Misbah-ul-Haq, the skipper, fellow veteran Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq, another form batsman.
 
But doubts persist over the opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood, just as there are concerns as to whether Alex Hales, still looking for his first Test hundred, is the best man to partner Alastair Cook at the top of England's order.

England will be without James Anderson, its all-time leading injured wicket-taker, and Ben Stokes, the sidelined allrounder, which means Cook's men will not have things all their own way as they did in the preceding 2-0 home series win over Sri Lanka. 

Missing Anderson will be a huge a blow for England. However, when he was ruled out of last year's fourth Test, fellow quick Stuart Broad took 8 for 15 on his Trent Bridge home ground, as Australia was dismissed for 60, to set up an Ashes-clinching win.
 
The match will mark the return to Test cricket of Gary Ballance after he was dropped last year. England will also have to decide whether to give a debut to Jake Ball or Toby Roland-Jones, the paceman who plays at Lord's for Middlesex, as the fourth-placed team begins its bid to leapfrog Pakistan (third) in the ICC Test rankings.
 
Teams (likely):
 
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones/Jake Ball
 
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah