After dominating in the first three days of the first Test, Pakistan will be disappointed that they are heading into the second Test, 1-0 down.
Despite captain, Azhar Ali saying otherwise, their second innings batting was a problem. Having a more than useful 107 run first innings lead, they should have batted England out of the game, but instead squandered their good position.
Experienced players like Azhar Ali (79 Tests) and Asad Shafiq (75 Tests) made no valuable contributions in the first Test, scoring a combined 54 runs in the Test. Simply not good enough. Pakistan’s middle order is their batting strength, and if this fails, so too will Pakistan.
Azhar Ali’s performance as captain was of concern too. His tactics left a lot to be desired in the field, especially when the pressure was on in England’s second innings. Odd field placements, not utilizing bowlers correctly and a lack of a killer instinct were all disappointing. With just a few days between Tests, how Azhar rallies his players will be important.
England however showed their depth in quality players. Even though captain Joe Root and Ben Stokes had been dismissed, Chris Woakes and struggling Jos Buttler proved they had the big match temperament to get England over the line.
What is key to England’s success of late is their never say die attitude. This is something other teams could learn.
Ben Stokes announced that he will not be available for the remainder of the Test summer, having to fly home to New Zealand for family reasons. While he will be missed by the England team, they will be delighted by the fact they have won their last two Tests without much contribution from him.
What changes could both teams make ahead of the second Test? For England, Stokes’ absence opens up the door for a specialist batsman. With Jos Buttler’s new-found batting form will England consider playing him as that specialist batsman, and perhaps bring in Ben Foakes as the wicket-keeper? Or will Zack Crawley, who many feel has been unfortunate to miss out on the previous two Tests earn a call-up?
Jofra Archer has struggled with his pace and consistency at times, and England are wary of over bowling him, they could therefore opt for an out and out quick in Mark Wood instead.
For Pakistan, I would be surprised if they changed their bowling attack, given the fact that Naseem Shah (17 years old) and Shaheen Afridi (20 years old) are both very young and should be able to get through back-to-back Tests without too much difficulty.
In terms of their batting, Pakistan should keep the faith in the players they have selected and trust that they will put in a better performance this time around.
If a second spinner is not necessary in the second Test, Pakistan could consider replacing Shadab Khan for Sohail Khan, who did impress in the warm-ups. Shadab is a very handy lower order batsman however, and scored some important runs in the first Test.
Both teams will be thankful that the first Test finished in four days, as there is not much time between Tests, so an extra rest day would have been welcomed.
A bit of rain is forecast in Southampton during the second Test, which will be a huge disappointment. But for now, we are all looking forward to another epic encounter between these very good sides.
The second Test kicks off on Thursday, 13th August, at 12pm SA time.