Venue – Multan Cricket Stadium, Multan
Date: Thursday, December 8
It is hard to put into words what happened between Pakistan and England in the first Test in this three-Test series in Rawalpindi. The wicket was unlike anything we have seen in Test cricket in years. It was lifeless, it was hard as iron, and it gave the bowling attack for each side absolutely no help at all.
England scored 921 runs in its two innings in a match, losing roughly ten overs a day due to fading light. Zak Crawley hit the fastest Test century by an English player, doing so in 86 balls, and he was one of four England players to hit over 100 runs on the first day of the Test as England piled up an astonishing 506 runs on that day alone. The 1,768 combined runs were the most in a 5-day Test match on record, surpassing the previous best from way back in 1969 when the West Indies and Australia – ironically two teams playing in their own Test series right now – scored 1,764 runs.
The sheer number of records and national bests that fell in the first Test was insane. Given the change of venue – moving from Rawalpindi to Multan – there should be a drastic comedown in the runs scored. With the way England is changing the narrative around Test cricket, however – with fewer defensive strokes and a much more attacking mentality throughout the squad at the crease – just about anything feels possible.
The hosts will be forced into making at least one change for this Test – and for the rest of the series – after it was revealed that fast bowler Haris Rauf picked up a quad strain in the first Test. It is a bitter blow for Rauf, given that the first Test here was his international debut. The injury happened on a fielding mishap on Day 1, and Rauf was noticeably absent from the Pakistani bowling attack during their second innings.
Given that Pakistan was already without the lightning-quick Shaheen Shah Afridi thanks to a combination of an ongoing right knee complaint and recovery from appendicitis surgery, their pace attack is certainly down on its usual quality.
As good as the batting was from England in the first Test, the bowling attack on the final day powered them home. In conditions where getting movement on the ball was almost impossible – and with Pakistan playing out for a draw – the combination of Ollie Robinson and James Anderson showed their ability to pull reverse swing out of nowhere to torment the Pakistan batsmen and eventually take their wickets. Expect to see more of the same from the England pace attack, with their relentless assault being a mirror image of how England likes to bat.
England is the most exciting Test nation to watch as their approach to the game burs the lines between white and red ball cricket. They are a momentum-based team where confidence is everything, and they have plenty of that right now. That is why I pick them to win as 18/10 underdogs on foreign soil in this Test.