Jake Ball, not Steven Finn, should replace injured all-rounder Ben Stokes for England's pivotal third Test with Pakistan

 
Chris Tremlett
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England v Pakistan: 2nd Investec Test - Day Four
Source: Getty

Head coach Trevor Bayliss was right to say the loss of Ben Stokes leaves a hole in the England side although the form of fellow all-rounder Chris Woakes, who is proving a real asset, can offset his absence.

Stokes will miss next week’s third Investec Test against Pakistan with the calf injury he picked up at Old Trafford on Monday. It’s such a shame for him to work his way back from a serious knee problem, only to then go and sustain a calf injury.

I can relate to how frustrating it must be having lurched from one injury to another at times during my career.

England have named a 13-man squad for the third Test, which includes both Steve Finn and Jake Ball who were axed from the starting XI following Pakistan’s 75-run victory in the opening match of the series.

I would like to see Ball given another shot. Even though he’s in the squad, I’m not convinced Finn will be in the frame. He’s simply not bowling consistently enough to justify his place at the moment, although I’m sure he will be back at some stage down the line.

Durham’s Mark Wood was a name mentioned in dispatches. The 26-year-old returned to international duty for the England Lions during their recent triangular series having undergone ankle surgery in April.

He could certainly have done a job and perhaps provided that extra pace, even if it was just in four-over spells, to ruffle a few Pakistani feathers, although the selectors possibly felt he hadn’t played enough cricket to be thrust into such a big match.

One of the major talking points from the second Test was skipper Alastair Cook’s decision not to enforce the follow-on after bowling out Pakistan cheaply in their first innings. I felt it was a very strange decision and I didn’t understand the logic.

No doubt the England camp wanted to give James Anderson and Stokes some additional rest after coming back from injury but if you can’t bowl in back-to-back innings then you shouldn’t be playing Test cricket.

I felt it was a slightly negative decision but ultimately England won so it wasn’t a major issue. The main reason for me raising the matter is to consider Cook’s captaincy in a bit more depth.

I’ve previously written that I felt his tactics during England’s disastrous Ashes tour of 2013/14, when I was a member of the squad, were bland. He has come a long way since that difficult series and credit to him for not quitting.

Cook has taken a lot of confidence from his own game and applied that to his captaincy. He’s not sticking to old-style tactics and he’s being more aggressive.

His style of captaincy is accustomed to English conditions and he knows how to get the job done here. Bigger tests await when England tour India in the winter, for instance, or if he’s still in charge when England next play in Australia, as different ideas and an alternative brand of cricket will be needed.

Returning to the current series, even though England chalked up a commanding victory at Old Trafford I wouldn’t say they now have the measure of Pakistan and will steamroll them. They will, however, have momentum.

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