England v Pakistan, 2nd npower Test, Edgbaston August 5, 2010

Brittle Pakistan need to show fight

The Preview by Andrew McGlashan

Match facts

August 6, 2010, Edgbaston
Start time 11.00 (1000GMT)

Big picture

England couldn't really have hoped for a better start to the series after their massive 354-run victory at Trent Bridge, but one thing that Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have become good at is keeping the players' feet firmly on the ground. All logic would suggest the gap between the teams is so vast that a turnaround is unthinkable, yet logic tends to go out the window when Pakistan are involved.

They have already shown their ability to bounce back from defeat when they levelled the series against Australia and any side with the fast-bowling skills of Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul can never be underestimated. That trio caused England a heap of problems at Trent Bridge, but at crucial times they were let down in the field and were given precious little back-up by Danish Kaneria, who suffered a shocking match.

Kaneria has been shipped back to county cricket (although can't play for Essex until he is re-registered) and the chief villain in the field - wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal - has been replaced by the uncapped Zulqarnain Haider but Pakistan's major problem is their batting. Despite the insistence of Salman Butt that he would back youth it was only a matter of time before an SOS went out for reinforcements and Mohammad Yousuf has duly been drafted into the squad.

After a race against time to reach Birmingham, Yousuf had been considered for a comeback in the second Test but ruled himself out through tiredness, leaving the way open for a recall for Yasir Hameed. It is debatable whether one man who has barely played cricket of late - regardless of his undoubted class - could have revived Pakistan on his own, and it may even have been a backward step for the team, as Yousuf's return could have revived memories of the terrible Australia tour which began Pakistan's latest crisis.

England are in bullish mood, and rightly so, with little concern over which players they face this week. The bowling was impressive in the opening match - led by James Anderson's career-best 11 wickets - while Eoin Morgan and Matt Prior delivered fine centuries under pressure. There are concerns over Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, who both need runs, but they are minor problems compared to Pakistan's.

Form guide (last five completed matches)

England WWWWW
Pakistan LWLLL

Watch out for...

Most of the talk surrounding England's batting hasn't been about the century-makers, but rather Kevin Pietersen's form. Yet, Alastair Cook shouldn't escape the spotlight after three disappointing Tests this season. He may have been captain five months ago, but the race for England batting spots is so intense that nobody can afford a barren run. In fairness it was a tough Test for top-order batsmen at Trent Bridge, but the concern was the ease with which Cook was predictably worked over by Asif and Amir. He showed in South Africa that he can combat top-quality pace bowling but he's at that stage again where he needs a few runs.

Mohammad Asif had the ball on a string for most of the first Test until England pulled away in the second innings. His languid, almost lazy run-up, doesn't hint at the threat he poses once he lets the ball go and even though he rarely exceeds 80mph his late movement can leave batsmen in knots. It is, therefore, soul-destroying to see chances go begging and then watch his own batsmen throw their wickets away. But Asif will keep running in and he, along with Amir, remain Pakistan's best chance of getting back onto the series

Team news

Barring late injuries England won't make any changes, especially after such a comprehensive victory. Graeme Swann should expect some more work in this Test, but he has said he won't mind another Test standing at second slip.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Graeme Swann, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn

Yousuf made it to Birmingham in time but thanks to his jet-lag and general lack of match practice, Umar Amin keeps his place, although there may be a temptation to move Shoaib Malik up the order. Kamran Akmal has been dropped, with his deputy Zulqarnain Haider coming in to make his Test debut, while offspinner Saeed Ajmal will replace Kaneria and will have a vital role in easing the workload on the quick bowlers.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt (capt), 2 Imran Farhat, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Umar Amin, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Zulqarnain Haider (wk), 8 Mohammad Amir, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Asif

Pitch and conditions

There has been some rain around Birmingham in the build-up to the Test and the forecast suggests further showers can be expected at various stages during the game. Cloudy skies will keep the swing bowlers happy and Stuart Broad recently showed what was on offer in the surface with 8 for 52 playing for Nottinghamshire against Warwickshire. However, if batsmen get in at Edgbaston runs can also flow quickly. It should be another fast-moving game.

Stats and Trivia

  • The first Test provided only the third occasion in history when all the top scores came from No. 6 and below in the order.

  • England and Pakistan have met six times at Edgbaston and the visitors have never won here. The last occasion was in 1992 in what became a rain-ruined and bat-dominated draw.

  • James Anderson, fresh from his 11-wicket haul, will play his 50th Test.

Quotes

"We all go through it, you're not human if you don't go through a poor run of form at some time, but players of the quality of KP always come back and he will."
Andrew Strauss has no concerns about Kevin Pietersen's form

"Everybody knows that this is the type of show that has been coming out of Pakistan previously as well as recently. This is something that can change."
Despite the disorder currently surrounding the team, Salman Butt is hopeful that the future will be more settled for Pakistan

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