The historic Pakistan-Ireland Test being played at Malahide is a great moment not only for the Irish players but for the young Pakistani players too.
Despite less experience, bowling is Green-shirts’ strongest area. Fast bowlers Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali and Mohammad Abbas could be lethal on English conditions. But young leg-spinner Shadab Khan will be the trump card for Pakistan. Against Northamptonshire, he managed to pick up 10 wickets for 157 and rang alarm bells for Ireland and England players.
Pakistan has an impressive history of producing great fast bowlers. Not long ago, Pakistan had the most lethal bowling attack with Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq.
Even after the retirement of these greats, we had Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal who helped Pakistan win a number of matches.
But now we don’t have consistently striking fast bowlers. Amir, Wahab and Junaid occasionally perform well. Mostly spinners play a decisive role in Pakistan’s bowling now.
The current Pakistan attack is perhaps the most inexperienced one touring England. Amir’s ineffective bowling must be a major concern for the captain and the management. He’s got pace which is 135-140km with the odd one going to 145. But he is not looking as effective as he was in his early days. He has lost his early wicket-taking ability.
Since his return to Test cricket in July 2016 against England, he has played 16 Tests and taken 44 wickets, conceding 1639, averaging 37.25 – figures that are below par.
But if Amir repeats his Champions Trophy performance, he could be more dangerous than any other Pakistani fast bowler.
Rahat is the second most experienced fast bowler after Amir. In 20 Test matches, he has taken 58 wickets but with a high average of 37.43.
Hasan, a young fast bowler, is a ray of hope. He has good line and length and is usually effective in the death overs in limited-overs cricket. His passion and hunger to perform well can make him a star.
Hasan, despite having played only two Tests, will be the centre of attraction as he performed remarkably well in the Champions Trophy in England last summer.
Abbas is also a talented bowler, who has played five Tests and taken 23 wickets at an average of 21.34.
In the absence of leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who played a vital role in leveling the Test series during Pakistan’s tour of England in 2016, young Shadab Khan will have to contribute a lot. The 19-year-old has the capability to perform well in all conditions. He doesn’t have enough experience in the longest version of the game as he has played just one Test – against West Indies last year in which he took only one wicket, conceding 145 runs.
But he has some experience of English conditions as he played an important role in the Champions Trophy last year.
Pakistan’s captain Sarfraz Ahmed is confident that Shadab Khan can play the role that Yasir did in the last tour. Shadab can bowl the googly well. He thinks Haris Sohail and Asad Shafiq can contribute as spinners too.
Pakistan opener Azhar Ali believes English conditions will favour fast bowlers and his compatriot pacers have the ability to trouble the hosts.
Azhar, one of the most experienced players in the side, accepted that England would have home advantage but Pakistan are ready for the challenge.
On paper, Pakistan batting looks inexperienced, but Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed are capable of handling England’s bowling attack.