LONDON: Ben Stokes is looking forward to leading England in their historic Test series against Pakistan this winter.

England are set to play Test cricket in Pakistan for the first time in 17 years, with three games scheduled to take place in December. They are set to play seven T20 Internationals in Pakistan first as part of their preparation for the T20 World Cup, before returning for the Test series.

And after enjoying a stunning start to his tenure as captain, with England winning six Tests in a summer for the first time since 2004, Stokes is relishing the opportunity for his side to test themselves in the subcontinent.

Unlike England, cricket in the sub-continent can often be a slow grind, with Australia needing 15 days of cricket to eventually win their series in Pakistan 1-0 during the final session of the final Test back in March.

And the question remains whether coach Brendon McCullum’s exciting ‘Bazball’ style can now have the same success in Pakistan, where they have not played a series since 2005 due to security concerns.

“It is something that we are going to have to try to continue to do in Pakistan, we can’t live off the fact that we’ve won six out of seven games because we will be presented with a completely different challenge,” Stokes said.

“[We must] Walk towards that danger of what Pakistan is going to throw at us. When we go to Pakistan it’s going to be a completely different environment. But we want to go there and keep continuing the form we’ve shown and the way in which we’ve played.

“It’s a hot country. You are not going to get anywhere near as much assistance with the ball as you do in England. You will be facing a lot more spin. That’s a new challenge for us and something we are excited by.

“To show that in different situations we can show off the positive mind-set and always try to put the pressure back onto the opposition.”

Stokes also believes his side has a “very high ceiling”, adding: “It’s a great thing to think about. Who knows how far we can take this side over the next couple of years. We’ve got two of our premium fast bowlers who have had big injuries this summer and have missed a lot of cricket.

“So you add Jofra [Archer] and Woody [Mark Wood] into the mix being fully fit — it’s scary to think where things could go, especially with the ball. And the batters that we’ve got coming through, and everything like that, means it’s a very high ceiling for this team that we can explore.”

England’s T20 squad — from which Stokes has been rested — arrives in Pakistan on Thursday, ahead of the first game of the series on Sept 20 in Karachi. They will play three more matches in Karachi before the final three games of the series are played in Lahore.

England will be captained by Jos Buttler, although Moeen Ali is expected to lead the side for the opening fixtures in Karachi while Buttler recovers from a calf injury.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2022

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