Middle-order batsman Haris Sohail opted out of the tour to England, leaving a spot in the Pakistan side XI open for the curtain raiser at Emirates Old Trafford. Instead of bringing in a like-for-like replacement – Fawad Alam was mooted as a contender – Pakistan instead opted to bring in Shadab Khan, the 21-year-old leg-spinning all-rounder, in theory weakening the batting order of a team with an already long tail.
While Yasir Shah does have a Test century to his name, a career average of under 14 suggests that batting at No. 8 might be at least a position too high. All three of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah average less than eight with the bat in Test cricket.
In the final Test of England’s series against West Indies, also in Manchester, the tourists fielded a side with a similar balance to the current Pakistan XI, fielding two spinners and three pace bowlers with little success. On that occasion, West Indies’ two spinners – Rahkeem Cornwall and Roston Chase – took 3-261 between them across the Test.
On the most recent episode of the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast recorded before Pakistan’s team selection was confirmed, Ben Gardner, the managing editor of Wisden.com, argued that Pakistan would be “bonkers” to play two spinners.
Ben said: “They’ve been discussing playing two spinners, which I think would be bonkers basically. They’ve got such a good pace attack. Against this England bowling attack, you want as much batting depth as possible. Just play your best three pace bowlers and your best spinner.