This Thursday morning, the whole Pakistan Cricket Team or just their two opening batsmen (dependent on the toss) will walk down the stairs from their dressing room inside the famous Lord’s’ pavilion, negotiate a few awkward twists, turns and passages and then proceed to stride through the beloved Long Room, packed with members of the Marylebone Cricket Club, and out onto the outfield.
Returning to the Home of Cricket will evoke good memories for all those concerned with Pakistani cricket.
In July 2016, the Men in Green triumphed by 75 runs in a thrilling victory over four days in north London. England had a good chance of chasing down 283 to win the game but Yasir Shah’s brilliance inspired Pakistan to a win in the first Test of a four-match series which ended 2-2.
That Test, in particular, is remembered for Misbah’s celebratory press-ups after he became the oldest centurion at Lord’s since 1926 – aged 42. The celebration was also a nod to the Pakistan team’s pre-military camp, following criticism of their fitness by the media.
The emotion of that success at England’s HQ was more than just about going 1-0 up in that series. The match also saw the return of Mohammad Amir – six years on from the infamous 2010 spot-fixing scandal in which he received a five-year playing ban.
Indeed, Amir’s comeback and that win helped to heal the scars, somewhat, from all those years ago while the draw in the final Test at the Oval secured Pakistan’s path to the No.1 test ranked team in the world for the first time.
It was a staggering feat considering Pakistan had not played a home Test since the 2009 terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore. To make reaching top spot even sweeter, Pakistan knocked eternal rivals India off the summit of the standings.
It was fitting that captain Misbah managed to guide his men there before he and record run-scorer Younis Khan retired the following year, when they helped their nation claim a maiden Test series win in the Caribbean.
Two Tests this time around seem too short and sweet, with the second coming fast up on the rails on June 1 at Headingley. But, for now, Lord’s is in Pakistan’s sights again and it’s a venue where they’ve recorded four wins in 14 visits. A decent record.
From that side that played two years ago, the current Pakistan XI and likely XI that will be named at the coin toss by skipper Sarfraz Ahmed this week, is virtually unrecognisable.
Azhar Ali, Sarfraz and Mohammad Amir (if fit) are set to be the only survivors.
The big names missing of course include: Misbah, Younis, Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah.
Amir missed the warm-up game as he was given time to rest his problematic knee that forced him off the field during the Ireland Test in Dublin that Pakistan won by five wickets. As the warm-up match was heading for a draw, Amir bowled at full pace on the side square and is understood to have come out unscathed, according to the AFP.
Amir’s fitness and workload have been a major concern for Pakistan ever since he returned to international cricket in 2016 following a five-year ban for spot fixing in 2010 Lord’s Test.
The left-arm pacer has played in all formats and has featured in the bulk of Pakistan’s matches. However, Amir has struggled with fitness and also a lack of bite in his bowling on occasions because of the heavy workload.
The first Test begins at Lord’s on Thursday.
Pakistan batting great Younis Khan backed Babar Azam to rise to the challenge and team up with with established batsmen like Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed to put up a good fight against England during the two-Test series which begins at Lord’s on Thursday.
Pakistan have selected a young team that has a few limited overs specialists. However, middle order batsman Azam looks like he has the technique and temperament to handle tough English conditions.
“Babar performs not only in one-dayers and T20s but he performs everywhere. So I think they (batting) will be able to handle those conditions,” Younis said.
Watch the full interview below.