Pakistan’s cricketers face an uphill task as they prepare to take on Ireland and England in Test matches later this month
Pakistan’s cricket team is getting ready for Tests against Ireland and England these days. Playing Test matches in tough English conditions will be a test for young Pakistani team, especially the batsmen. In the first warm-up game against Kent, Pakistani team was bowled out for just 168, although there was no prominent bowler in the Kent squad.
From May 11, Pakistan play against Ireland, one of the two latest entrants in Test cricket. It is the biggest moment for Ireland’s cricket.
Ireland and Afghanistan were granted Test-playing status last year.
The two countries already have one-day and twenty20 international status and had proved with their performances against top teams that they deserved the Test status.
Ireland are currently 12th in the ICC one-day rankings. Afghanistan are 10th.
Ireland have enjoyed some notable successes at the international level in the shorter versions of the game. They shocked Pakistan at the 2007 World Cup in Jamaica and England at the 2011 World Cup in Bangalore.
Ireland will have a significant home advantage against Pakistan, particularly because of weather conditions.
Pakistani batsmen have always found it difficult to bat on pitches which have swing or bounce. Their weaknesses were once again exposed against Kent where except young Imam-ul-Haq, no batsman managed to stay at the crease for long.
Asad Shafiq played 58 balls for 17 runs, but others failed to negotiate even 50 balls.
But there is no need to panic as Pakistan team has the ability to bounce back. This is a great opportunity for young players, particularly batsmen, to gain experience in different conditions.
Keeping in mind that the next World Cup is to be held in England, Pakistan selectors showed their confidence in young guns. Five uncapped players have been selected for the Test against Ireland and two Tests against England.
Batsmen Fakhar Zaman, Imam, Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf can get a chance to play against the energetic Ireland and experienced England.
Opener Fakhar could play in the middle-order if he gets a chance. He was the hero of the Champions Trophy final against India last year. He has an average of 41.91 in first-class cricket and has hit six hundreds.
Imam’s selection was criticised because he is the nephew of chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, but the 22-year-old silenced his critics with a hundred on his ODI debut against Sri Lanka last year. Even in the first warm-up game against Kent in the ongoing tour, he was the only Pakistani batsman to score a fifty.
Saad is another young talented player. He was the leading run-scorer in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
Usman has struck 20 centuries in his first-class career and averages 46.33.
All-rounder Faheem has already impressed with the ball in Pakistan’s limited-overs sides. His bowling can play an important role in favourable conditions.
Pakistan team will definitely miss the services of Yasir Shah, who played a decisive role in Pakistan-England drawn series in 2016.
During that tour, Yasir jumped to the first position in the ICC Test bowlers’ ranking after the match-winning performance at Lord’s where he took 10-141 to give Pakistan a 75-run victory.
Yasir is also the joint-second fastest bowler with England’s George Lohmann to take 100 wickets in Test matches. Yasir is the fastest to reach 100 Test wickets in Asia. Therefore, his absence must have given relief to English players.
In the absence of Yasir, Shadab Khan could be the trump card as a quality spinner always creates problem for England players.