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Pakistan v England 2022/23

Bazball on steroids: Six things we learned from the England v England Lions warm-up for the Pakistan Tests

England head coach Brendon McCullum looks on - his side have just completed a warm-up against England Lions ahead of the Pakistan Tests
Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read

England begin their three-Test series against Pakistan on Thursday, December 1, with their sole warm-up game against England Lions now completed.

The fixture was not quite played at full speed, and was called off after two days with England feeling the had had enough practice. But there is still plenty that can be gleaned from the two innings of action. England batted first and ran up 501-7 in 79 overs – that aversion to the second new ball is very much still in place – with Zak Crawley making 96 and Ollie Pope 146 at better than a run a ball. Will Jacks smashed 84 at nearly two runs a ball, with several others also making quick contributions. Dan Lawrence, with 2-57, was the only bowler to strike more than once.

In reply, England Lions attempted to match the senior side stroke for stroke. Haseeb Hameed’s 142 was the top score, with Tom Haines’ 82 the other half-century. Several other cameos carried them to 412-9, with each of England’s spinners – Jack Leach, Liam Livingstone and Jacks – striking twice each.


What we learned from the England v England Lions warm-up game

The clues into the make-up of the XI for the Pakistan Tests

Given England’s success over the summer, England’s XI only has a few spots left open, and it is becoming clearer who Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes are favouring. The position of Zak Crawley’s opening partner will likely be filled by Ben Duckett, who looks to have edged out Keaton Jennings having taken up the role in the warm-up. In the battle for the No.8 basher/part-time spinner role, Jacks looks to have the edge over Livingstone having outperformed in the warm-up, smashing 84 off 48 to Livingstone’s 36 off 23, and taking 2-69 from 13 overs compared to Livingstone’s 2-80 from eight. However, that will still be a tight call.

The Brendon McCullum revolution might only just be getting started

McCullum’s reign got off to a near-perfect start during the summer, with six wins from seven and a slew of fast and high-scoring records broken. However, from the looks of the warm-up game, that might just have been a teaser, with basically everyone on show smashing it from ball one. While there was a short boundary to target, a match run rate of 5.85 runs per over shows the impact McCullum’s methods have had throughout the game. If the pitches in Pakistan remain as flat as they have been since Test cricket’s resumption there, carnage could be the result.

Rehan Ahmed will fit right into Bazball, but it is still a punt

With 26 off 10 balls, Rehan Ahmed, 18 years old and with talent to burn, celebrated his maiden Test call-up in style. He is clearly hugely talented, catching the eye of Shane Warne as a 13-year-old, and arguably the first truly modern English wrist-spinner, bowling at a quickish pace while still able to turn it. However, it is worth sounding a note of caution. Rob Key says his promotion to the full squad was always the plan, but that this “soft launch” was to help him avoid scrutiny. “He is nowhere near the finished article at the moment,” Key told journalists in Abu Dhabi. Ahmed went for 73 in nine wicketless overs for the Lions, and while that is too little to judge him on, considering how fast the run rates were in the game and the strange nature of the fixture, he has just three first-class appearances to his name. Key has taken several big calls so far, and they have all been vindicated. This is another one, and the result will be revealed over the coming weeks.

Haseeb Hameed still has plenty to offer

Ten Tests. An average below 25. No centuries. Plenty of England fans feel they have seen all that needs to be seen from Haseeb Hameed to conclude that he doesn’t have the game to handle the proper quicks at the top level. While it remains to be seen whether he ever cracks Test cricket, the circumstances of his first two stints deserve to be taken into account. Each time he was promoted quickly after one and then half a good season. Perhaps it is unsurprising that, without a significant body of work to fall back on, he struggled to maintain a promising start in the second stint, entering the tour of Australia in a weird limbo as an uncontracted incumbent and with the shadow of Zak Crawley in the opposite position looming. In 2022 he has had a truly substantial season, his first since that breakout campaign in 2016. His selection for the Lions shows he remains in England’s thoughts. His century, against a full-strength England attack, shows why.

Jofra Archer is back, and that’s lovely to see

Jofra Archer, it’s been a while. July 2021 was the last time he turned out in a top-level match, with a long-standing elbow injury and a back stress fracture keeping him away from the action. Speculation swirled over whether he would ever play a Test again. Archer’s first summer with England was absurdly good: the best bowler in an epochal World Cup win, two Ashes six-fors, line, length, swing, seam, and the pace to trouble the best. But the list of bowlers to start bright, get injured, and come back diminished is long.

It was heartening, therefore, to see Archer steam in again with a red ball in his hand and a smile on his face. Zak Crawley was cracked on the helmet. The speed gun read 90mph, and apparently you can add another three onto that figure. It was only nine overs, and he will be handled with care: a warm-up game here, a couple of games in a South African T20 competition there, with a return for the 2023 Ashes the goal. It would be some story.

Ben Foakes is a freak with the gloves (but then we already knew that)

We’ve seen Ben Foakes’ brilliance behind the stumps before, but never quite like this. Jacks fired one way down the leg-side; most other keepers wouldn’t have even got close to it. But not only did Foakes gather the ball, he spotted Jack Haynes out of his crease as he fell, and flicked the ball back-handed towards the sticks. The stumping was completed, and everyone watching was left bemused as to exactly how.

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