2nd over: Pakistan 2-0 (Abid Ali 1; Shan Masood 1) Pakistan nip a couple of quick singles off Broad’s over. Nasser points out the difficulty Masood had leaving the ball last time he was in England. Watch and wait.
“Really looking forward to this series, not just to see Pakistan’s bowling,” taps Toby Sims, “but also very importantly, the team lockdown haircut competition…”
Root, I don’t think, has hit the barbers. Broad is still in his white bandana with wild locks. I think Stokes has been shorn, but I’d need him to take his hat off to be sure.
1st over: Pakistan 0-0 (Abid Ali 0; Shan Masood 0) James Anderson takes the ball from his, less favoured, James Anderson End ,and serves up a predictably probing, accurate maiden. A beauty slips past a probing Masood as he props forward.
The players line up for the national anthems, now a minutes silence for all those round the world affected by Covid-19.
Pakistan will BAT -arghgh – thanks to all those who pointed out my, what Bob o’Hara called, brain fart.
Meanwhile Peter Haining pre-guesses the inbox with the overseas TMS link. Click here. Thank you Peter.
And Nasser Hussain puts the fear of god into England fans by an adulation of Babar Azam, who averages 64.57 since 2018, and, Sky have discovered, is playing the ball later and later and more underneath his nose.
A note from my colleague Ali Martin. The players will not be taking the knee today in solidarity with Black Lives Matters. This from the ECB:
“The players wore the Black Lives Matter logo and took the knee throughout the West Indies series in solidarity and respect to the message and our rivals. It remains a hugely important issue for both the ECB and the players as there is no place for discrimination of any kind in cricket or society.
“The ECB is continuing to develop plans and consult with the game to make cricket more inclusive and diverse, and we recently set out a range of action we are taking to address some of the feedback we’ve received as we seek to drive real change.”
Warnie is waxing lyrical about Pakistan’s two legs-spinners, Yasir Shar – who he says spins the ball both ways, has all the toys and just needs the right fields -and Shadab Khan, who had been due to join Surrey for their Blast cricket this season.
England: Burns, Sibley, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson
Pakistan: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah.
Pakistan have won the toss and will bat
Azhar Ali says they’re going in with three seamers and two leg spinners.
England have chosen an unchanged XI – which presumably means Ben Stokes won’t bowl. Root says he’d have batted first but looking forward to exploiting the overhead conditions.
You’ll remember that England have lost eight of their last ten first-Tests of a series, including against Pakistan in 2018.
Rob riffed on it here
Also, that England haven’t beaten Pakistan in a Test series for a decade.
The first email of the day pings in:
“As long as it remains dry, the cricket should start on time. I’m very excited to watch Babar – and the continued growth of England’s opening pair, who are doing exactly the job asked of them (batting time, establishing a platform). Burns and Sibley are both averaging more than 42, since the Ashes/debut.”
Good stat James Debens! Though I’m nervous about Burns and Sibley opening this morning against this Pakistan in these conditions. Toss is imminent.
And here is the pitch. Note the grassy outfield – it hosed it down last night (as it has much of the last month).
At Old Trafford, Ben Stokes is currently undergoing a bowling fitness Test.
And in other news, this series will be used as a trial for the TV umpire to call front-foot no-balls for the first time in Tests.
Here is the forecast. You might wish you hadn’t looked.
And for those of you who want to relive the astonishing ODI against Ireland last night, here’s Vic Marks purring with delight.
Some pre-match reading:
If yesterday was Ireland and last week was West Indies, today must be Pakistan – and there can be no better way to start a grizzled Wednesday morning in Manchester than a Test match against them – the first of three, followed by three T20s.
Pakistan last played a Test in February, so are without England’s intense match practise, but they have been quietly going about their business in the UK since the end of June. A journalist who watched them at both their warm-up matches at Derby said the batting was very reliant on Babar Azam but their bowling was a match for England’s.
The man – boy – causing the greatest excitement is Naseem Shah, the 17 year old with the flowing side-on action that Michael Vaughan has compared to Fred Trueman’s. Just 17, he can bowl at 90mph, swing the ball both ways and already has a Test hat-trick, against Bangladesh earlier this year. One fears for England’s stumps. He is complemented by Shaheen Afridi, who so impressed in last year’s World Cup.
Babar Azam is the pick of the batting. His last tour of England in 2018 ended after just one innings when his wrist was broken by a ball from Ben Stokes during 68 at Lord’s. He is now the third ranked batsmen in ODIs and the sixth ranked in Tests – and has been compared by his captain to Steve Smith and Virat Kohli in terms of talent. A stint with Somerset last summer will have helped his acclimatisation to English conditions.
England, who announced a 14 man squad unchanged from the final Test against West Indies, are waiting on Ben Stokes’ fitness to bowl. And another milestone beckons – James Anderson needs just 11 wickets to reach the 600 mark. And the weather? Blowy, damp and grey, though no rain is forecast until this afternoon.