Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Date: Wednesday, August 5, 2020 – Sunday, August 9, 200
England comes into this three-match Test series having just taken care of the West Indies in the five-day version of the sport. They beat the tourists 2-1 after losing the first Test, capping the series in dominant fashion with a 269 run victory in the third and final Test. In this match, the England bowlers were the stars of the show as they bowled the Windies out for 197 in their first inning and just 129 in their second time at the crease. The England batsman did their part too, posting a first-innings tally of 369 and then putting up 226/2 declared in their second innings.
Pakistan was initially to play a couple of warm-up matches against a Select XI side and then against Leicestershire. The pandemic, however, made those games impossible to play, so instead the tourists played three warm-up contests within their squad. Nazeem Shah has looked great with the ball and both Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam have shown promising knocks with the bat against the teammates in these exhibition contests.
England are waiting on a late fitness test for key player Ben Stokes before making their side known to take on Pakistan in the Old Trafford series opener. Stokes will be in the team for his bat without doubt, but the question is if he is fit to bowl or not. If he can – and he did practice on Monday – then England will leave out a seamer for an extra bat. If Stokes is only able to play as a batsman then it is likely that England will name an unchanged team from their squad of 14 to keep an extra seamer in the lineup. The combination of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes is currently giving England an outstanding one-two punch in their attack and the weather conditions in Manchester would make it seem like spinner Dom Bess needs to be in the lineup as a change of pace.
Shah may or may not be 17-years-old – that is a debate for another day, but there is no doubt at all about his ability to bowl fast and get wickets. He is an unknown to this England group and as such his first couple of spells will be interesting to watch as the England team tries to get used to his pace and what he can make the ball do off of the bounce. This is a different type of attack to the one England faced against the Windies, with the Pakistan bowlers relying less on pure pace and more on angles of attack.
England are favorites at 0.40 with BetXChange but there is an argument that Pakistan at 4.00 are worth a punt given England’s recent run of futility in Test match openers. One bet worth considering is Broad to be England’s best first innings bowler at 2.75 with BetXChange. He took 6/31 and 4/36 against the Windies in the final Test and is bowling as well as he has in his entire career to this point.