England’s top order has been quite fragile for a while: Azhar Ali


Azhar Ali feels that England's Test team is in the process of settling down still

Azhar Ali feels that England’s Test team is in the process of settling down still © AFP

Azhar Ali has acknowledged he’s banking on his young pacers – Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi – to challenge the “still settling” England batting line-up. Pakistan have done fairly well in England in the last four years – drawing the series in 2016 and 2018.

“Their top order has been quite fragile for a while since Alastair Cook retired. They’ve tried a few combinations and only now it’s just settling down; they weren’t very confident of their top order. Their Test team is in the process of settling down still,” he said on Saturday (June 27). “In our team, the way that our fast bowlers have improved (is commendable) … how Shaheen has bowled, any team will look up to him. Naseem Shah has bowled with great pace. Abbas’s experience… we have youngsters too who have done well, so we have bowling options. But these three, in particular, can cause any batting line-up trouble.”

Pakistan’s biggest threat, though, is going to be facing Jofra Archer. “England has a great bowling line-up no doubt, and in their conditions, they perform very well. But if you take out Jofra Archer from that attack, it’s the same attack that we have faced in the past and won Tests there. Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Woakes, Stokes and even Wood was there then. We won facing them then,” he pointed out, stressing the batting line-up is capable of handling the pressure.

While the onus is on Pakistan’s bowlers to put pressure on the hosts, ICC’s introduction of saliva ban to shine the ball could make life a little easy for the batsmen. Azhar, however, emphasized the Dukes ball will make it an even contest.

“Maybe, but we can still use sweat on the ball and fast bowlers sweat irrespective of the weather conditions once they bowl a couple of overs. So I think we’ll still be able to shine the ball with these regulations in place also,” he said. “Maybe the ball will reverse soon too… we haven’t played with these rules in place, but the West Indies series will take place while we are there so we’ll get a better idea then of things as to how it shines and when it swings. We’ll get an idea through practice matches too. We can then figure if it’ll be batting-friendly or not.

“Until we experience it ourselves we won’t have a 100 per cent idea of what really will happen. But there in the UK, batting is always a challenge because of seam movement. The seam of the Dukes ball remains prominent so the new ball will trouble batsmen and once the bowlers start sweating, they can manage the shine. Once you shine the ball, the shine stays for some time because in England due to the rains there’s a wax coating on the ball that prevents the ball from getting wet.”

Pakistan, who named a reworked 20-member squad, will arrive in England on Sunday (June 28). The tour, set to start in August, will begin with a three-Test series before the three T20Is.

© Fame Dubai


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