Visitors chasing history and other talking points as under-fire England prepare to take on Pakistan at Headingley

Ashish Peter 31/05/2018
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Pakistan could claim a first series victory in England since 1996.

England will have their backs against the wall when they take on Pakistan in the second of the two-match Test series at Headingley in Leeds on Friday.

Defying all odds and expectations, Sarfraz Ahmed’s men blew away the hosts by a nine-wicket margin within four days in the first Test at Lord’s to take a 1-0 lead in the series.

Joe Root and his men, on the other hand, have come in for some stinging criticism from all quarters following their lacklustre showing at Lord’s.

Here, we look at the key talking points ahead of what could be a momentous Test at Headingley.

PAKISTAN LOOK FOR HISTORY

In the last 10 years, only two overseas sides have managed to win a Test series in England. South Africa sealed a victory in 2008 while Sri Lanka famously won the two-Test series in 2014, 1-0 – ironically, with success coming in the second Test at Leeds.

Sarfraz and his men could become the first Pakistan side since 1996 to win a Test series in England. That time, a Wasim Akram-led Pakistan side beat the hosts 2-0 in a three-match Test series.

It would certainly represent Sarfraz’s greatest triumph since taking over the Test captaincy from Misbah-ul-Haq and could just be the tonic Pakistan cricket needs to kickstart a new era.

Sarfraz Ahmed could kickstart a new Test era for Pakistan.

Sarfraz Ahmed could kickstart a new Test era for Pakistan.

ENGLAND SWEAT ON STOKES’ FITNESS

If the humiliation of a thrashing in front of home fans wasn’t enough, England were dealt a further blow in the aftermath of the Lord’s Test when Ben Stokes suffered a hamstring injury.

The star all-rounder is key to the balance of the squad and as such, Root will be hoping that he can make a late recovery for Friday. Stokes still has not been ruled out of the Leeds Test and underwent a light net session on Thursday. He will undergo a scan on his hamstring before undergoing a late fitness test on Friday morning before England make a final call on his availability.

If Stokes is unable to recover in time, 19-year-old Sam Curran could make his Test debut for England after the youngster was called up as a late replacement.

England will be hoping Stokes can make a quick recovery.

England will be hoping Stokes can make a quick recovery.

USMAN SALAHUDDIN IN LINE FOR PAKISTAN DEBUT

While Pakistan completed a stunning victory at Lord’s, it came at a slight cost with star batsman Babar Azam being ruled out of the remainder of the series after fracturing his elbow on day two.

Middle-order batsman Usman Salahuddin is expected to take Azam’s place in the playing XI on Friday in what will be his Test debut. The 27-year-old impressed in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy last year and scored a fine 69 in Pakistan tour-match against Leicestershire earlier.

Usman is vying with Fakhar Zaman and Sami Aslam but the odds are firmly in his favour.

Usman has played two ODIs for Pakistan previously.

Usman has played two ODIs for Pakistan previously.

HOSTS UNDER FIRE

While Pakistan are chasing history, England are seeking to arrest their alarming slide in Test cricket which has seen them go without a win in their last eight matches. Of these, they have lost six of them and a loss or draw at Headingley would mean Root’s men have lost three series on the bounce after defeats in the Ashes and New Zealand.

Under coach Trevor Bayliss, England have lost a staggering 20 out of 41 Tests. Former players and pundits were quick to criticise him once again after the Lord’s slump and another defeat could very well signal huge changes in the English Test set-up.

While their batsmen are under fire for obvious reasons, star pace bowling duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad managed to pick up only five wickets between them at the Home of Cricket. If England are to turn it around, they will need to raise their level in all departments.

The England think-tank is coming under increasing fire.

The England think-tank is coming under increasing fire.

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England all-rounder Ben Stokes to undergo late fitness test and scan ahead of second Test against Pakistan

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Stokes will likely undergo a fitness test on Friday morning.

Ben Stokes is to have a scan on his left hamstring and is likely to face a late fitness test on the morning of the second Test against Pakistan.

England‘s key all-rounder suffered a tight hamstring during fielding practice on Wednesday at Headingley, and was limited to shuttle runs with the team physio the next morning – despite reporting a slight improvement in the injury.

England then announced Stokes is to have a scan after practice, although he was the first to have a bat in the nets.

A brief England and Wales cricket Board update on his condition added: “He feels better this morning.

“He has done some running at full intensity without issues, (but is) expected to have a fitness test in the morning.”

England called up Surrey’s uncapped teenage seamer Sam Curran on Wednesday evening, as cover for Stokes.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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England limited-overs skipper Eoin Morgan sidelined for up to 10 days after fracturing finger

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Morgan has been ruled out of ICC World XI's clash against West Indies.

Eoin Morgan is expected to recover from a fractured finger in time to lead England in their first limited-overs assignment of the summer.

The England captain has been ruled out of the Rest of the World XI’s one-off Twenty20 contest against West Indies at Lord’s on Thursday after chipping a bone in the end of his right ring finger.

Press Association Sport understands the problem will sideline him for seven to 10 days, meaning he should feature in England’s one-day international against Scotland at Edinburgh on June 10.

The Scotland clash is followed by five ODIs against Australia next month.

Morgan’s county Middlesex confirmed he suffered the injury when he was fielding during the Royal London One-Day Cup match against Somerset on Sunday and added he would miss their fixtures against Hampshire and Surrey this week.

The left-handed batsman was set to captain the World XI in a game granted international status by the International cricket Council, which is being held to raise funds for stadiums in Dominica and Anguilla damaged by hurricanes last year.

Andy Flower, the England and Wales cricket Board’s stand-in director, said on the ICC’s official website: “It is not a bad crack but it is bad enough to keep him out of tomorrow’s Middlesex game and the World XI game.

“It is not a huge concern, it is one we can hopefully manage past in about a week.”

Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi will skipper the World XI in the absence of Morgan, who will be replaced in the line-up by England team-mate Sam Billings, with Surrey’s Sam Curran and Sussex’s Tymal Mills also added to the group.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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