ENGLAND’S commitment to attack was perfectly illustrated by a determination to force victories in the two warm-up matches ahead of their three-Test series against Pakistan, but Andrew Strauss’s side may have to curb their natural instincts if they are to be victorious this winter against highly skilled opponents.
Conditions will favour the batsmen and suit Misbah-ul-Haq’s side, who have lost only one of 13 Tests under the guidance of their new skipper, meaning England must show patience and discipline, particularly if they lose the toss and are made to bowl first.
Deprived of genuine home advantage, not to mention two world class bowlers in the shape of banned duo Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif, Pakistan are not the force of two years ago when they ran England closer than the 3-1 scoreline suggested, but history tells us they will be competitive no matter what XI they put out on the field.
Pakistan’s batting line-up isn’t the most powerful around, but I don’t see it crumbling in the way Australia’s and India’s did against England’s quicks. With that in mind, each new ball must be treated like a precious gift, so whoever opens with James Anderson must be on the money.
Fitness concerns as well as the performance of Monty Panesar, who took eight wickets in last week’s win over a PCB XI, means the composition of the side isn’t as straightforward as is normally the case.
Tim Bresnan’s tour-ending elbow injury is a bigger blow than might first be assumed. In the oppressive conditions England will encounter, you need a durable workhorse like Bresnan to block up an end when the pitch goes flat, and the fitness records of Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett suggest they might not last three Tests.
Moreover, the Yorkshireman’s batting will also be sorely missed and it’s too much of a risk to bring Panesar in as a straight swap, even if the pitches are taking spin, because dear old Monty simply doesn’t offer anything with the willow in his hand.
To accommodate an extra spinner coach Andy Flower and captain Strauss would need to consider axing Eoin Morgan and promoting Matt Prior to No6. I’ve no doubt the Sussex wicketkeeper would score runs in that position, but unless England are behind in the series I don’t see them going down that route.
They’ve got to No1 in the world on merit using a tried and tested method – six batsmen, wicketkeeper, three pacemen and a spinner – and should they perform to the level we’ve come to expect, they will add another series win to their glowing record.
Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer and captain of Warwickshire who made 17,211 first-class career runs, including 29 centuries.