"It has been frustrating for both the teams," said Pakistan captain Azhar Ali after a rain-interrupted second Test between England and Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton ended in a draw. No result in the second Test means England still hold the edge in the three-match series despite their opponent showing great confidence.
Riding on the back of Mohammad Rizwan’s 139-ball 72, Pakistan posted 236 on the board and were able to cause troubles with the ball, having dismissed four England batsmen for 110. However, with an hour of the game still to be played, Root decided to declare the innings, ending the shortest Test in England in terms of balls bowled since 1987 (between England and Pakistan at Lord’s).
So as the teams head into the third and final Test of the series, we look at two players from each team who are tipped to make a difference.
Pacer Stuart Broad continued his rich vein of form in the second Test, picking as many as four wickets for 56 to move up to the second place in the recently announced ICC Test rankings. The Nottingham-born pacer has now taken his tally to 26 wickets in four games at 12.38 after missing the first Test against West Indies.
Broad was at his brilliant best even in the first Test of the series, picking six wickets across both innings, just two behind the game leader Tasir Shah, who scalped eight. Now with Pakistan struggling to cope with Broad’s variations, it is safe to say that he will be the one to keep a keen eye on.
Ben Stokes’ unfortunate departure to New Zealand for family reasons gave 22-year-old Zak Crawley a chance to assert his claim, and the right-handed batsman duly delivered what was expected, scoring a 99-ball 53 and playing an impressive 91-run stand with Dom Sibley when the match resumed on the final day.
Crawley, who is seven Tests old, now has three half-centuries in his kitty and has scored at an average of 28.54. The figure sure isn’t impressive enough, but the young batsman has shown that he can take on a bowling line-up as fierce as Pakistan’s.
Top-order batsman Babar Azam is yet to get into the full swing, having scored 121 runs across three innings in the series, but he can never be written off. He will deliver when least expected, and with Pakistan clinging right on the edge, captain Azhar Ali will want his best man to deliver in the final Test in order to avoid a defeat.
His knock in the recently concluded Test has put him back in the top five of the ICC Test rankings, and that has made him the only batsman in the world to be ranked among the top five in all formats. He is, in fact, the only Pakistani batsman ranked inside the top 10 in all three formats. Now with a point to prove, expect Babar Azam to be at his usual best in the third Test.
Mohammad Abbas’ return of five wickets from three innings seems a bit jaded, but what we’ve overlooked is the fact that he has, in fact, churned out the wickets from England’s top-order. In the first innings of the first Test, the pacer dismissed opener Dom Sibley, followed by an important wicket of Ben Stokes. He capped off his performance by picking out Rory Burns in the second innings and was his usual self even in the second Test.
As Sibley and Crawley started building a partnership, Abbas struck by dismissing the latter and picked out Sibley in his consequent over. He is sure to deliver a blow in the final Test.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Lee Smith