RAWALPINDI: The low and slow nature of playing surfaces in Pakistan won’t force England towards a defensive approach in their three-match Test series, which starts here at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Thursday. The visitors will instead look for wickets, veteran pacer James Anderson said on Tuesday.

“Taking wickets”, Anderson said would be the only way to go for the England side, which has emerged as an ultra-attacking unit in the last few months after the appointments of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum as captain and head coach.

The Pindi Cricket Stadium pitch was awarded demerit points when Australia played here earlier this year, with only 24 wickets falling throughout what ended up being a tame draw.

The 40-year-old Ande­rson, who’s the only player from the England squad that visited Pakistan in 2005, will lead the visitors’ attack when the first Test kicks off.

“The challenge is trying to try to find something in unresponsive pitches — that is the sort of skill of being a Test cricketer who plays all around the world,” Anderson told reporters at the venue.

The right-armer has been key to England’s success in the six Tests under Stokes and McCullum. He believed the duo’s style of leadership will rule out a situation where the conditions may dictate the contest.

“The introduction of Ben as captain and Brendon as coach has also helped in terms of thinking outside the box,” said Anderson.

“In terms of field settings and plans that you use on the field... I think we might have to, maybe, think outside the box a little bit over the next few weeks.”

Pakistan players practise in the nets at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.—AFP
Pakistan players practise in the nets at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.—AFP

Anderson boasts an unbelievable record of 667 Test scalps in 175 appearances for England, only behind Sri Lankan and Australian spin legends Muttiah Muralitharan (800) and Australian Shane Warne (708).

The pacer said England knew the threat Pakistan could pose with the bat, giving a special mention to talismanic batter and captain Babar Azam. “We know how good they are,” he said. “We’re well aware how important a wicket Babar is for Pakistan.”

Anderson said he was looking forward to play in front of the Pakistan fans, who had been deprived of watching the world’s top players at home due to security issues for over a decade.

“We know how many cricket fans are in Pakistan and how much they love and support not just Pakistan cricket team, but cricket in general around the world,” he said.

“It’s amazing... thank you on behalf not just of myself, but the whole team for the welcome we’ve had.”

NASEEM IN AWE OF ‘LEGEND’

It’s not only the fans who are excited to see Anderson playing in Pakistan. The buzz is equally being felt by hosts’ pacer Naseem Shah.

Naseem — who was barely three months old when Anderson made his Test debut — said he hoped to learn from the “legend”.

“I have learned from him and will continue to learn from him,” Naseem said during a press conference on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old will play as Anderson’s counterpart — spearheading the pace attack for Pakistan — at the venue where he became the youngest bowler to take a Test hat-trick against Bangladesh in 2019.

He achieved the milestone two months after becoming the youngest pacer to take five-wicket haul in Tests against Sri Lanka.

“I think it is a big achievement for him that he is still playing and is very fit... that shows how much hard work he has been doing,” he said of Anderson.

“He knows everything about bowling, having played everywhere in the world, so he is one of the best.”

Naseem’s opportunity to lead Pakistan’s attack comes at the expense of Shaheen Shah Afridi’s absence due to a knee injury. The right-armer, however, is eager to take responsibility.

“Shaheen was also injured in Sri Lanka (in July) so even then I took responsibility and I am again ready for that,” said Naseem.

“When your best bowler gets injured it makes a big difference, so we have to take that responsibility, use the new ball well.”

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022

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