The first of the two Tests between Pakistan and England is being played at Lord’s. Before the ongoing Test, Pakistan had played 15 Tests at Lord’s: 14 against England and one against Australia in 2010. The Green-shirts have won four and lost four against England at cricket headquarters.
Pakistan will miss the services of three great players, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Yasir Shah, who played a vital role in the 2-2 drawn series in 2016. Pakistan won the last Test here under Misbah. Man-of-the-Match Yasir Shah claimed 10 wickets. But this time he is absent because of an injury.
In the absence of Yasir, the bowling burden will be on Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas and young spinner Shadab Khan.
Amir is the most experienced bowler in the current Pakistan squad with 31 Tests. He reached the 100-Test wickets milestone in the Test against Ireland. Rahat Ali is the second most experienced with 21 Tests. Mohammad Abbas (6), Hasan Ali (2) and Shadab Khan (2) are talented but have little experience.
It is the same ground (Lord’s) where the spot-fixing incident happened in 2010. Amir was caught along with then skipper Salman Butt and fast bowler Mohammad Asif during the Test against England and received five years ban.
It has been more than two years since Amir returned to international cricket following the ban. Statistics show that he has been less successful, especially in the longest version of the game.
Before the ban Amir averaged 29.09 and 24.00 in Tests and ODIs, respectively. Since his comeback in 2016, his average has gone up to 34.40 and 30.26 in Tests and ODIs.
Indian captain Virat Kohli in an Indian TV interview praised Amir and said: “He is in the top two or three bowlers in the world and the toughest bowlers I have played in my career. You have to be on your ‘A’ Game when you’re facing him or he will strike. Outstanding! Very good bowler!”
It was not the first time that Kohli appreciated Amir. During the 2016 Asia Cup, Kohli had lauded Pakistani fast bowler, saying, “I have always believed that he (Amir) is a world class bowler and had he been around for the five years that he was banned, he would have certainly been among the top three bowlers in the world. He has a lot of talent, has got pace, bounce, a very good yorker.”
Amir is bowling at a higher pace in all three formats, but his ability of swinging the ball in the air and off the pitch has been affected.
The reduction in the number of balls that Amir swings into the right hander and away from the left hander is a cause for concern. It shows he has lost some of the bite which made him so successful before his ban.
Amir has played a lot of T20s in the past two years which has considerably increased his workload.
Rumours began to circulate that Amir was considering retirement from Test cricket to prolong his career. If he plans to play for next 10 years, the PCB management should be selective to prolong his career.
Despite the glamour and money in shortest version of the game, Test cricket is still considered the premier format. It is the best format to check any player’s skills, patience and fitness. Amir is still a young and energetic fast bowler. Other Pakistani pacers don’t have much experience of the longest version of the game. Therefore, Amir should be a part of Test matches for some years.