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England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Manchester – Preview

England ropes in Saqlain Mushtaq as it braces for spin test; Pakistan likely to retain same XI for second Test

England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Manchester – Preview  - Cricket News
England is bracing for a spin test as it heads into the second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford on Friday (July 22) intent on levelling the four-match series 1-1.

The home side lost a keenly fought first Test at Lord's by 75 runs inside four days, with Yasir Shah, the Pakistan legspinner, taking ten wickets and racing to the top of the ICC rankings for bowlers in the format. 

Ben Stokes was one of those in the England camp hailing Yasir's talent. "Yasir Shah, I reckon, is the best legspinner since Shane Warne," he said, while adding that his side was ready to handle the challenge. 

With the Old Trafford surface likely to offer more turn, England has roped in Saqlain Mushtaq, the former Pakistan offspinner, as a coaching consultant.  

Stokes was looking forward to working with Saqlain, who took 4 for 74 when Pakistan beat England by 108 runs in the second Test at the ground in 2001. “You've got to use the knowledge of the people you're lucky enough to have come in and work with you,” he said. “It would be silly if the batsmen didn't try to get anything out of him, pick his brains and ask how the guys who were successful against him played.”

He also promised a more cautious approach from the batsmen in the second game. “Old Trafford is known to spin, and obviously that's going to favour [Yasir]. So we might have to change where you have to think 'I can do this but no, I can't do that', if it's spinning and bouncing. It will just be working out a game plan in terms of how to score, but not giving your wicket away."

Apart from working with the batsmen, England will also expect Saqlain to offer tips to its spinners. Adil Rashid, the legspinner, was added to the squad for this Test and he could offer support to Moeen Ali, the offspinner, who was unable to get the same kind of returns at Lord's as the Pakistani tweakers.

Other than Rashid, England has also included James Anderson, its all-time leading wicket-taker, and Stokes, the allrounder, in an expanded 14-member squad for the game. Their return, after missing the first Test through injury – shoulder for Anderson, knee for Stokes – will come as a big boost for Alastair Cook's side. 

Chris Woakes, who was initially drafted into the side as a replacement for the injured Stokes during the preceding Sri Lanka series, is set to keep his place in the XI after a stellar all-round performance at Lord's had him go up on the honour's board as well.  

A confident Pakistan too is likely to field the same side and will aim for consistency. Apart from Yasir, Mohammad Amir handled the pressure well and impressed on his return to Test cricket in England and Misbah-ul-Haq marked his first Test at Lord's with a fine hundred, the 42-year-old going on to perform a series of press-ups in celebration. 

The captain's gesture in thanking military staff for the squad's pre-tour boot camp was echoed by the team after Amir had sealed victory by bowling Jake Ball, the last England batsman. 

While Steve Rixon, Pakistan's fielding coach, didn't believe the “spontaneous” celebration would be repeated, he explained the unity was high in the camp. “The spirit is very high, and belief is high,” he said. “[The win] was reward for a lot of hard work – the boot camp back in Pakistan, and a lot of hard work in [training in] Hampshire.”

He insisted, though, there would be no let up from Pakistan. “We are expecting as hard a game as we'll get in the series right here.”


England (from): Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Gary Ballance, Jake Ball, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes.  

Pakistan (likely): Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali.

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