England will be eager to register back-to-back series wins on home soil when they take on Pakistan in the second Test of the ongoing three-match series at the Ageas Bowl starting Thursday.
The hosts lead the series 1-0 following their thrilling three-wicket win in the first Test in Manchester. The stunning comeback victory has firmly put the momentum in their corner going into the Southampton Test.
For England, the one concern will be the absence of talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has flown to New Zealand for family reasons. Although he didn’t have the best of games in Manchester, his mere presence lifts the whole squad and that would be sorely missed by Joe Root and his troops.
“We now have to complete the job without Ben Stokes. He is someone we would miss even if he was unable to bowl or hit a ball. He has such an impact in the changing room beyond what he does in the middle,” England pacer Jofra Archer wrote in his column for Daily Mail.
“If you are going into battle, Stokes is the person you want right next to you. He would never run away from a challenge, but family is so important and he has to be in New Zealand right now,” he added.
Stokes’ absence means veteran fast-bowler James Anderson might get another crack in the series, who recently had to dismiss retirement rumors following an indifferent outing in the first Test.
“It’s been a frustrating week for me personally,” Anderson told reporters via videoconference. “I’ve not bowled very well and felt out of rhythm. For the first time in probably 10 years, I got a little bit emotional on the field.
“I got a bit frustrated and let it get to me a little bit. It reminded me of when I first started playing, when you get frustrated and a little bit angry, you try and bowl quicker and quicker and it doesn’t help,” he added.
Pakistan, meanwhile, will have to shake off the disappointment of losing the first match from winning position when they take to the field in Southampton.
While former greats have called for Pakistan to tinker with their squad, head coach cum chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq pointed towards the fact they controlled most of the match in Manchester and lost following just one bad day.
“We are feeling frustrated, just as the fans are, after the Old Trafford Test match but this is how cricket is. There are very small margins between victory and defeat and it’s easy to curse yourself when you’ve lost,” Misbah wrote in his blog for PCB’s official website.
“But, we should remember that we were right on top until pretty much the last session of the game and we played very good cricket. Sure, we need to improve 10 to 15 percent and deal with pressure situations a little better but we shouldn’t be mentally down.
“There is a disappointment, of course, but we must not keep that feeling in our minds otherwise it will be difficult to come back but the team believes we can fight back,” he added.
England: Joe Root (C), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, James Bracey, Ben Foakes, Jack Leach
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (C), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Imam ul Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah.