Pakistan head into Friday’s third Test at Southampton facing a first series defeat against England in 10 years while the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said that the third Test will feature revised playing timings to accommodate for poor weather conditions.
The tourists are 1-0 down in a three-match campaign after a three-wicket defeat in the first Test at Old Trafford, a match where Pakistan were on top until the closing stages, followed by a draw in a second Test at Southampton where neither side had a chance of victory in a match blighted by bad weather.
There had been concerns that, as happened to the West Indies’ fast bowlers during their 2-1 defeat by England in a preceding behind closed door series that marked international cricket’s return from lockdown, Pakistan’s quicks would be worn out by three back-to-back Tests.
But the lack of action in the second match — Pakistan had bowled just 43.1 overs in England’s first innings when a draw was agreed — should mean a first-choice pace attack of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah who are all fit and firing for Friday’s finale at the Ageas Bowl.
Pakistan coach Misbahul Haq was confident fatigue would not have been an issue in any event, with the former captain, in a blog for the Pakistan Cricket Board’s website, writing that “fitness has been an important part of our strategy as a team” since he took charge in September.
Read: Frustrated and disappointed but we shouldn’t be mentally down, says Misbahul Haq
Despite little play in the second Test, Misbah was heartened by the determination of Mohammad Rizwan, who top-scored with 72, the resilience of Pakistan’s top-order in “testing conditions” and the fact an attack featuring leg-spinner Yasir Shah took four wickets.
“The seamers also bowled really well […] That last session, even as the game drifted towards a draw, gives us a lot of confidence going into the last Test,” Misbah added. “It’s a big game and we want to end the series on a good note.”
Meanwhile, England face another selection dilemma. There will be a strong temptation to stick with the tried and tested pace trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, so effective in the kind of overcast English conditions that are likely to be a factor in the third Test as they were in the second.
But with English cricket constantly obsessing about the next Ashes series, a 2021/22 tour of Australia, team management would like to give express fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Mark Wood more Test-match game time before they head ‘Down Under’.
“It’s very difficult,” said England coach Chris Silverwood. “You look at what you need for the here and now and you look down the line for what we potentially need (in Australia).
“It’s a difficult balance to get […] There’s various factors we look at and pace is one of them: it’s pace, movement, bounce, left or right arm […] all these things come into account.”
Another, immediate, issue is that Friday’s match could be played on a used pitch if the weather means the Ageas Bowl ground staff do not have enough time to prepare a fresh surface after the second Test finished on Monday.
ECB confirm revised start times
ECB on Thursday said that the third Test will feature revised playing timings to accommodate for poor weather conditions.
Play can begin at 10:30 local time (09:30 GMT), 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled 11:00 start if time is lost due to bad light or rain earlier in the test, the ECB said in a statement.
“Following positive discussions with the ECB, the International Cricket Council (ICC) and various stakeholders […] the ECB and the ICC have agreed to revised start times ahead of the third test,” the ECB said in a statement.
“The flexible approach will enable the prospect of making up time for inclement weather during the morning session of subsequent days rather than at the end of the day.”
The ECB said that after the conclusion of play on the first day, the match referee, groundstaff and ECB Match Manager would discuss the start times for the next day and if the forecast looked good, play could begin at 10:30.