England’s Test form is worrisome. They are in the middle of an extremely poor run having not won any of their last seven Tests (albeit all away), and last year even lost a home Test against West Indies. This year they lost a series to New Zealand for the first time in 19 years. Andrew Strauss, the director of England team, wants a radical change or be the also-rans in international cricket. Even though his review is primarily focused on England’s away record, the English team hasn’t been extraordinary in the home Tests either.
Yes, it is true that England haven’t lost a home series in four years; yet the good teams these days not only win, but they also whitewash the visitors at home. England’s win percentage in home Tests in the last two years is 61.53. At first glance, the percentage might look impressive, but it could look ordinary when compared South Africa (80.00 percent), Australia (72.73), India (68.75) or even New Zealand (63.64).
England have lost at least a Test in seven out of their last eight home series, the exception being Sri Lanka in 2016, and repeating that trend against Pakistan would mean they cannot win the series as – not that it needs a reminder – there are only two matches.
Joe Root and Sarfraz Ahmed pose with series trophy on the eve of Lord's Test ©AFP
There is certainly an element of vulnerability with this England team and Pakistan will be hoping to exploit and catch them in the middle of their poor run. “As a captain, I see England at the moment being less confident, and we will try to take advantage and perform well,” said Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on the eve of the first Test at Lord’s.
England, on the other hand, are aware of their struggles but looking at this series and the next against India to put an end to their terrible run that started in Australia where they lost the Ashes 4-1.
“I think we have had different challenges to deal with, and we haven’t been at our best this winter but this summer is a really good marker, we can judge at the back end of these seven Test matches.”
When Pakistan came to these shores in 2016, they had a memorable win at Lord’s to kick off the series that was followed by push-up celebrations. That match and three other great wins at the home of cricket – in 1982, 1992 and 1996 – will certainly be in the mind of Pakistan players when they take on England in the series opener on Thursday.
However, the services of the two players who played a vital role in their last win at Lord’s will not be available. Misbah-ul-Haq, who scored a hundred on the opening day, has retired whereas Yasir Shah, who claimed ten wickets in the match, is nursing a hip injury. The biggest challenge for Pakistan is the absence of the senior pros, but Sarfraz is confident that they have the players who can play the role of senior players.
"Mohammad Amir and I have played here before so has Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq so we are seniors and the rest of seven players will play here for the first time. We have to lead from the front, we have more responsibility to give a good platform so that new players take from there,” said Sarfraz.
Another challenge that awaits Pakistan is a fresh Lord’s pitch in the early summer conditions. The prediction for the first day at Lord’s is cloudy weather and the team batting first in overcast conditions could be in serious trouble.
It remains a challenge for every visiting team to excel in England in the first half of the summer. In the last 17 years, England have lost only two Test matches starting in May. Pakistan, however, can draw comfort from the fact that one of those losses came at their hands – at Manchester in 2001.