LONDON: England captain Alastair Cook hopes the Test series against Pakistan will be more remembered for cricket rather than controversy as Mohammad Amir returns on Thursday at Lord's.
The 24-year-old Amir has served his five-year punishment for bowling deliberate no-balls, also at Lord's in 2010, and will spearhead Pakistan's pace attack against a strong England batting lineup.
“I've said all along I don't think match-fixers should be allowed to play but at the time he [Amir] was given his punishment, he's served it so he's entitled to come back. He's served his time,” Cook said.
“I just hope that we can concentrate on the cricket now. It's the big story about this Test match, but I thought the way both sides played in the UAE [last year] that the spirit between us was different to in the past, and I hope we can carry that on and talk about the cricket.”
England has rested fast bowler James Anderson for the opening Test of the four-match series and 25-year-old Nottinghamshire paceman Jake Ball will be making his test debut.
“Unfortunately Jimmy has missed out, but it's a great opportunity for Jake,” Cook said.
“I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes. He's had a great year with Notts and looks a fine bowler. He's got wicket-taking balls in him, the ability to get good players out on flat wickets, and he puts the ball in good areas with good pace.”
Anderson sustained a shoulder injury during the Test series against Sri Lanka last month and although he bowled in the nets, Cook said the selectors preserved England's leading Test wicket-taker for the second Test at Old Trafford.
“He's not [bowling] quite at full pace, and I think the risk of going into five-day Test match with that injury, an injury that not too many people have had, just had a bit of a doubt about it,” Cook said.
“I think the selectors decided that there are three other games, and he should be fit for Old Trafford.” Pakistan has a long drought of not winning a Test match at Lord's for two decades since winning by 164 runs in 1996.
However, Pakistan had the best of the preparations of nearly a month to get accustomed to English conditions as the team arrived last month and also played two warm-up matches.
Baring opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez, who scored only 70 runs in four innings in the two side games, the rest of the top order batsmen got used to conditions well with No. 3 batsman Azhar Ali scoring two centuries.
Newly appointed coach Mickey Arthur has named 12 for the Thursday's Test match with one of the two fast bowlers – Wahab Riaz or Imran Khan – getting the final nod for a place in the playing team.