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England v Pakistan

Seven takeaways from Pakistan’s first intra-squad warm-up game

by Max Parry 5 minute read

Max Parry picks out seven things we learned from Pakistan’s first warm-up game of their tour of England.

While England were facing off against the West Indies in Manchester, their next opponents, Pakistan, were playing an intra-squad match in Derby. The contest between Team White and Team Green, led by Babar Azam and Azhar Ali respectively, was won by the latter with five wickets remaining. Batting first Team White were bowled out for 249, before skittling Team Green for 181. Leading by 68, Team White pressed home their advantage, setting their opponents 353 to win, but Team Green hit back, reaching the target with ease. Here are seven things we learned from the game at the Incora County Ground.

Mohammad Rizwan steals the show

The Peshawar-born wicketkeeper/batsmen top-scored for Babar Azam’s Team White in the first innings with 54* in helpful bowling conditions. He then backed that up with an unbeaten hundred off 159 balls as he saw his side home by five wickets. The 26-year-old has been Pakistan’s first-choice stumper since the axing of Sarfaraz Ahmed as captain but is yet to score a Test ton in his six matches to date. Early signs are a maiden century might not be far away.

Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq: big guns back in form

Pakistan Test skipper Azhar Ali made only 31 in the first dig but atoned for that with a 120 in the second innings, which he brought to an end himself, retiring to give those below him some time in the middle. These will be welcome runs for Azhar, who has had a lean time of it in Test cricket recently, especially away from home. Since the start of 2018 he has averaged 12 overseas, with no scores above 50, and also struggled for Somerset in the 2019 County Championship.

Asad Shafiq hasn’t been quite as run-starved, but did go the whole of 2019 without a Test hundred. He top-scored with 51 in challenging conditions on day two before being run-out by Babar Azam and then made 67 before retiring in the second innings with his side on the cusp of victory. Both will need to be near their best for Pakistan to go one better than 2018 and 2016 and bag a series win.

Naseem Shah is on fire

Teenage tearaway Naseem Shah took 5-51 from 17.5 overs in the first innings of the intra-squad warm-up in Derby, as Team White were dismissed for 249. Naseem, who became the youngest hat-trick taker in the history of Test cricket in February this year, trapped Imam-ul-Haq lbw and nicked off Haider Ali, displaying his awareness of the importance of pitching the ball up on English shores.

He was unfortunate not to take the prize wicket of Babar Azam, as Pakistan’s gun batsmen scarcely avoided dragging his first ball onto his own stumps. He did however clonk Fawad Alam on the helmet after digging one into the wicket, before dismissing Shadab Khan and mopping up the tail. The 17-year-old speedster is one of the most exciting pace prospects in the world. The evidence suggests England could be the next side to feel his fury.

Could England scourge Sohail Khan make a comeback?

Sohail Khan put England to the sword in 2016, taking five-fors in the third and fourth Tests of the series as Pakistan claimed a highly creditable 2-2 series draw. While he hasn’t played a Test since 2016, the right-armer staked a claim for a recall with figures of 5-50, demonstrating his potential value as a replacement for one of Pakistan’s first-choice seam options. With three Test matches scheduled in quick succession between August 5-25, Azhar Ali will almost certainly have to rotate his quicks, and with his performance in Derby Sohail has staked a claim to be first cab off the rank.

Yasir Shah’s specialism outguns Shadab Khan‘s all-round package

There is much to attract about the idea of selecting Shadab Khan in England; as a live-wire in the field and handy lower-order bat, it’s tempting to think he could offer more than Yasir Shah, a more potent leg-spinner, in conditions where you would hope your pacers would do most of the damage.

However, despite scoring 54 runs for once out, the youngster  may well have bowled himself out of contention. In the first innings he only bowled three overs as the seamers cleaned up; in the second dig he went wicketless in his 17 overs, conceding 107 runs at 6.11 an over. Yasir had a much better time of it in Derby; two wickets in each innings at an acceptable economy has put him in the driving seat for a starting place for first Test at Emirates Old Trafford.

Haider Ali pulls ahead in battle for No.6 slot

With the highly rated Haris Sohail pulling out of the tour, a slot has opened up in the Pakistan batting order. Haider Ali, former Pakistan U19 star, is yet to make his international debut, but will have done his chances no harm with a second-innings half-century. On the other hand, the perenially and mysteriously overlooked Fawad Alam, with a first-class average of 56.84, didn’t make a score of note in the match. The Karachi-born left-hander, who made a century on Test debut back in 2009 but played only twice more, made 24 in the first innings before falling to Yasir Shah; he was then castled for three in his team’s second innings by the same bowler.

Abid Ali head injury concern eases

Having only made his international debut last year at the age of 31, opener Abid Ali made up for lost time in spectacular style, becoming the only male cricketer to score a hundred on Test and ODI debut. However, the right-hander suffered a setback when, on day three of the game, he was struck on the head by a shot from Haider Ali while fielding at short leg. An ambulance was driven out into the middle but fortunately the opener only required a stretcher and was later cleared of concussion. He should be fit enough for the next warm-up as he is expected to return to training imminently.

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