England have some thinking to do before the start of the second Investec Test against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford on Friday as they bid to drag themselves back into the series.
Having named a 14-man squad for the clash they have plenty of options at their disposal and there has been a fair bit of debate about which way they’ll go following their 75-run defeat in the opening Test.
Seamer James Anderson, England’s leading Test wicket-taker of all-time, will be restored to the side come what may having overcome the stress fracture to his right shoulder blade he suffered against Sri Lanka last month.
His recall is likely to be at the expense of either Steven Finn or Jake Ball. Finn could well be the one to miss out as his rhythm didn’t look right in the first Test. I felt Ball bowled better throughout so he may get the nod.
There has been much talk about England potentially playing two spinners after Adil Rashid’s call-up, while head coach Trevor Bayliss fanned those particular flames in the aftermath of England’s defeat on Sunday.
It’s not a tactic England have employed on home soil very often. In fact, it has only happened six times in 20 years and whether it occurs in Manchester this week is completely down to conditions.
Should England opt against fielding two spinners, I wouldn’t be overly surprised if leg-spinner Rashid was picked ahead of Moeen Ali, who did not bat or bowl particularly well at Lord’s. It might just be Rashid’s time.
All-rounder Ben Stokes scored vital runs for Durham in their victory over Lancashire at Southport earlier this week and he is the other player to be added to the squad following a knee injury. He is likely to play.
The initial survivor in the Finn-Ball debate, when considering the return of Anderson, might not be safe after all as Stokes could well replace them. Given the balance of the side, however, it could be a batsman that makes way.
I’m not convinced England will go down this route but if they do, it would have to be James Vince who loses his place. He hasn’t really done enough in the Test arena so far, scoring 112 runs in six innings, and looks scratchy.
It will be interesting to see how England approach the second Test but one thing they simply have to do is play Pakistan leg-spinner, and now the world’s No1-ranked bowler, Yasir Shah better. It would pay to be more positive against him.
Despite losing, it was great to see two evenly-matched sides going at it, particularly after the Sri Lanka series earlier this summer which proved far too comfortable.
Pakistan are an underestimated side and when they turn up and are on their game they are a match for any team in the world, in any format of the game. It will be fascinating to see how England respond.
One man who deserves a lot of credit, meanwhile, is Chris Woakes, who claimed 11 wickets in the match at Lord’s. He is a player that has been criticised at times in the past, so hats off to him.