All the talk is of convicted spot-fixer Mohammad Amir returning to Test cricket and he is a big reason why I expect Pakistan to provide a stern challenge for England when the four-match Investec series gets underway at Lord’s on Thursday.
The 24-year-old looks to be bowling pretty well and swinging the Dukes ball late, performing just as well as he did when he was last over here in 2010 where he showed himself to be an unbelievable talent.
We all know how that series ended, with Amir ultimately serving a five-year ban from cricket as well as a prison sentence after being found guilty of deliberately bowling no-balls, and I have previously given my thoughts on him and others reprising their careers after such incidents.
On Thursday, he is set to return to the scene of his crime and it is a situation which has been hyped up, as it was always going to be, but I don’t expect it to affect England’s players.
There are only a handful of guys left who featured that day six years ago, and while the likes of Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad will have their own views, when they step over the line at 11 o’clock it’s simply a case of bat against ball.
The decision regarding Amir’s re-entry to cricket has been made and is out of the hands of players. As a result, I hope the match can be played in good spirits. I would also like to see Amir prove what a good bowler he is and the past be left in the past.
Yorkshire’s Joe Root, meanwhile, is set to move to No3 in the batting line-up where he will replace Middlesex’s Nick Compton, who is taking a break from the game. Gary Ballance has been recalled to the side a year after being dropped following the second Test of last summer’s Ashes series.
I would have thought England might have been tempted to bat Ballance at No3, like he did during his first stint in Test cricket, in a bid to nullify the new ball although it looks as though they may adopt a different tactic.
I have read some comments that moving Root to No3 is a risk but ultimately it’s up to him. He’s England’s best batsman at the moment and if he doesn’t have a problem with moving to No3 then why not?
It’s going to be a test for England, especially after the Sri Lanka series where they knocked the tourists over pretty comfortably, even though it may take Pakistan a while to adjust to the conditions.
Pakistan have some talented batsmen and England will be without seamer James Anderson, who suffered a stress fracture to his shoulder during the Sri Lanka series.
It’s always a blow when Anderson isn’t playing, although it provides an opportunity for Nottinghamshire’s Jake Ball to come in and show what he can do.
It could be a tough series for England, although it is a challenge I expect them to rise to.