Sarfraz’s tourists have the opportunity to revive past glories by becoming the first team from Pakistan to win a Test series in England since the great fast-bowling duo of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were in their pomp 22 years ago.
On that occasion, Pakistan drew at Headingley and won twice in London.
In this series, they need only to do the same in Leeds – starting on Friday – to close out a 1-0 success and contrary to a consensus that Pakistan played their perfect match at Lord’s, Sarfraz believes they are capable of putting even more pressure on England.
“We need to keep improving all the time,” he said.
“As well as we played at Lord’s, we can still play better than that.
“We made four 50s at Lord’s – and if one of them had gone on to the big hundred that would’ve been even better. (Same with the bowlers) if they take three or four wickets, make it five or six.”
It will be a famous achievement if Sarfraz’s men can emulate their great predecessors.
“If we do win this, it will be a series we’ll never forget,” he added.
“The last time we won a series in England was in 1996, when Wasim and Waqar were around, and we drew at Leeds then,” he added.
In order to create those memories, Sarfraz advises the opposite in the short term.
“We have to forget Lord’s and move on to this now,” he said.
“If we want to move ahead as a team we have to forget our wins.
“We did well, we enjoyed it for two days, but now we’re here.
“If we are to move up in the rankings we need to forget our wins and keep moving on.”
Pakistan have sprung a minor surprise in selection, preferring Usman Salahuddin to his fellow uncapped batsman Fakhar Zaman to replace the injured Babar Azam.
Sarfraz claims it was an easy choice, despite the impact Zaman made with a match-winning century in last summer’s Champions Trophy final against India at The Oval.
“It wasn’t close … we’ve seen Usman as a better option,” he said.
“Usman has been with us for the last three tours.
“He’s worked very hard and he’s been doing well.
“He played well in the two-day game against Leicestershire. That’s why we recommended him, and that’s why he’s playing tomorrow.”
Afghanistan received a big boost in their aspirations of developing as a Test nation after the BCCI confirmed they will play one practice match against international sides that tour India in future years.
The announcement, which will see Afghanistan almost serve as a tune-up match for touring nations such as England, Australia and South Africa, was revealed by India’s governing body’s general secretary Amitabh Choudhury during his visit to Kabul on Thursday.
Afghanistan will play their first-ever Test match against India on June 14 in Bangalore and the hosts are keen to play their part in helping the former Associate nation develop on the field.
“It is an honour to be here in Kabul and be invited by Mr. President (Mashal),” Choudhary was quoted as saying in the Times of India.
“It is a privilege for us to be playing Afghanistan in their historic first Test match as we did not want to let go of this opportunity.
“Cricket will further strengthen ties between the two countries and deliver a message of peace. Afghan players are well known and loved in India because of their participation in IPL which will increase in the coming years.”
Afghanistan Cricket Board chairman, Atif Mashal, added: “Afghanistan is now a full member of ICC and we also enjoy cordial relations with BCCI which will be further strengthened as we strive to work together to further develop the game in the country.”
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.
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.
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.
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.