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England v Pakistan IV Test, The Oval – Preview

Iftikhar might debut as visitor mulls another bowling option in bid to level series

England v Pakistan IV Test, The Oval – Preview - Cricket News
England will have an additional motivation to emerge victorious as it has a chance of becoming the No. 1-ranked Test side.
Pakistan will consider playing an extra bowler in a bid to square the series in the fourth and final Test against England starting on Thursday (August 11) at The Oval in London.
 
Pakistan started the series well by winning the first Test at Lord's by 75 runs but England bounced back with victories by 330 runs and 141 runs at Old Trafford and Edgbaston respectively.
 
With form, a 2-1 lead and momentum on its side, England goes into the final Test as favourite while Pakistan will look to bounce back and end the Test series on a high.
 
One of the concerns for the visitor has been the absence of an all-rounder, leaving its four-man attack tiring with prolonged spells.
 
In its quest to take 20 wickets, Pakistan could hand a debut to Iftikhar Ahmed, a top-order batsman who also bowls off-spin.


 
"He bowls off-spin and decently, England have a lot of left-handers so he does give us an option as a fifth bowler if he comes in," Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, said on Tuesday. "But we have to be dead certain he can come into our top six and get runs, because we'll be asking for runs first and bowling second."
 
The other option for Pakistan would be to play five specialist bowlers, compromising on its batting strength.  

"It's certainly one of the options, but whoever comes in, somebody has got to bat in the middle order, which makes it a particularly long tail," explained Arthur. "It's one that we've thought about and one I lay in bed thinking about it last night. That's a very positive option because we've got to get 20 wickets in this Test match. We've got to work through that one."
 
That would, however, be a tough decision for Pakistan, given the form of two crucial batsmen. Mohammad Hafeez, the opener, has managed only 102 runs from six innings this series while Younus Khan has tallied 122, putting pressure on the rest of the line-up.
 
"Younus is so professional on and off the field," Arthur said. "Put it this way, he's giving himself the best chance to perform."
 
But Pakistan will be encouraged by the form of Sami Aslam, the 20-year-old opener who impressed with scores of 82 and 70 in the third Test after replacing Shan Masood.
 
On the bowling front, Pakistan will hope Yasir Shah returns to the form he showed at Lord's; the leg-spinner took stunning match figures of 10 for 141 there but has a combined returned of 4 for 502 in the last two Tests.
 
England, too, will be worried about some of its top-order batsmen. Alastair Cook and Joe Root have been consistent but Alex Hales has not been among the runs while James Vince is still searching for his first Test half-century.
 
The host, after considering handling a home debut to Adil Rashid, the leg-spinner, eventually named the same XI that won it the Test at Edgbaston by 141 runs, leaving out Jake Ball and Rashid from the 13-man squad.
 
England will have an additional motivation to emerge victorious as it has a chance of becoming the No. 1-ranked Test side if it wins and India does not emerge victorious in both of its remaining matches against the West Indies.
 
Teams
England: Alastair Cook (capt), Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson.

Pakistan (from): Mohammad Hafeez, Sami Aslam, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imran Khan, Mohammad Rizwan, Zulfiqar Babar.