England start their summer Test programme against Pakistan at Lord’s on Thursday and need to impress to wipe away the memories of a dismal winter.
An Ashes thrashing followed by a series loss in New Zealand seemed to set the stage for major changes, but minor tinkering is all that has taken place.
The big-hitting Jos Buttler is the headline name to get the call, while Pakistan have to make do without injured star leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who took 10 wickets in a win for the tourists at Lord’s two years ago.
Without Yasir present, young leggie Shadab Khan will be needed to shoulder plenty of responsibility and Pakistan can take heart from a recent record of just two losses in their last six Test outings at Lord’s.
Three of those six matches have been won, so the visitors will surely have plenty of confidence that they can once again upset the odds against the Three Lions.
And with only a few showers forecast for the five days a positive outcome is likely, so 17/4 for the draw is a less promising option, while England at 5/12 to win offers little in the way of value.
A catch is the most likely method of first dismissal in the match at 5/12, but, especially if England bat first, then clean bowled is definitely an option to ponder.
Alastair Cook has seen his stumps rearranged twice in his last five Test innings and his footwork has been far less assured in recent times than it was when he was at the top of his game.
Should left-armer Mohammad Amir be fit to feature, his style of full-length bowling attacking the stumps also points to clean bowled being something to watch out for.
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