England recall Wood as Pakistan look to bounce back in Multan

Published December 9, 2022
ENGLAND batter Harry Brook in action during a net practice session at the Multan Cricket Stadium on Thursday.—AFP
ENGLAND batter Harry Brook in action during a net practice session at the Multan Cricket Stadium on Thursday.—AFP

MULTAN: England replaced injured all-rounder Liam Livingstone with fit-again fast bowler Mark Wood in the only change to their squad for the second Test against Pakistan, with Ollie Pope retaining the wicket-keeper’s gloves.

Livingstone has returned home after sustaining a knee injury in his debut Test in Rawalpindi, where England pulled off a remarkable 74-run victory for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Wood missed the first Test as he continued his recovery from a hip injury.

Ben Foakes, who missed the opener with illness, is now fully recovered but England skipper Ben Stokes confirmed that Pope, who made 108 in the first innings in Rawalpindi, will continue behind the wicket because of his superior batting.

“I’ll still keep saying that he [Foakes] is the best keeper in the world,” Stokes said on the eve of the match, which begins on Friday.

“It must sound silly to not be picking him but you’ve got to see the conditions we face here. Pakistan is a very hard place to come and win.

“Adding Mark Wood into the side gives us the best opportunity to take 20 wickets. Having someone in your squad who can bowl at 150kph is a massive bonus for any team around the world

“That’s what we came here to do. We came here to try and win the game of cricket and not be conservative ... .”

While light faded early in Rawalpindi, morning fog may further reduce the playing time in Multan which is why Wood’s return could prove crucial for the tourists.

Off-spinner Will Jacks, who claimed six wickets on his Test debut in Rawalpindi, was also retained.

“The pitch is dry and it seems a lot more muggier here than [Rawalpindi],” Stokes said of the grassless top in Multan.

“You might see reverse swing coming into a Test match a lot earlier.”

The England skipper said he expected Pakistan to come back fighting to save the series, but added that his side have no plans to change their tactics.

“We will have the same mindset over the next five days and hopefully everything we do can contribute to us leaving here two-nil up,” he asserted.

Meanwhile, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam predicted a dry pitch in Multan with lot more assistance for spin bowlers.

“Looks like it will assist the spinners, and you can expect some reverse swing too,” Babar told reporters at a news conference.

“We’ve nearly finalised the 11 players for the match but we need to take a look at the pitch first.

“We were in charge of the Test in Rawalpindi but our batsmen could not finish it. We’ve learnt from our mistakes and will try not to repeat them.”

Babar said the team’s fast bowling combination was being discussed after the injury to Haris Rauf.

Pakistan are yet to decide if they will select Faheem Ashraf or Mohammad Wasim Junior in their pace attack for Multan amid reports about a shoulder-related injury to pacer Naseem Shah.

To a question, he said earlier four main fast bowlers played in all three formats. “But now we have decided to take care of our main bowlers by keeping in view the upcoming important contests,” he said.

The skipper also spoke about experienced batter Azhar Ali who has been struggling for form.

“Azhar is a senior player and I will support him as captain but it is up to Azhar himself to decide his future,” he said.

England will conclude their first Test tour of Pakistan since 2005 with the third Test in Karachi from Dec 17-21.

England squad: Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes, Will Jacks, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Mark Wood, James Anderson.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022

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