Five Pakistan players to watch as tourists look to stop England securing consecutive Test series wins

Will Macpherson
·3-min read
Getty Images
Getty Images

England are due to begin their next Test series against Pakistan at Emirates Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Joe Root's side head into the first instalment of another three-match series in bio-secure conditions having secured a 2-1 victory over West Indies just one week ago.

Pakistan, meanwhile, are set to play their first Test since beating Bangladesh in February and will visit England for the first time in two years.

The tourists possess several top talents capable of causing England serious problems over the coming weeks.

Here, Standard Sport's cricket correspondent Will Macpherson picks out five Pakistan players to watch....

Shan Masood

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Pakistan have options at the top of the order. Captain Azhar Ali will bat no3, behind Abid Ali, who has two hundreds in three Tests, and Shan Masood.

Also competing for spots are Imam-ul-Haq and domestic titan Fawad Alam.

Masood enjoyed a return to form last year and has two hundreds in his last three Tests. But can he conquer Jimmy Anderson, who has dismissed him six times in six innings, and turn around an average of under 18 against England?

Babar Azam

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Quite simply one of the game’s classiest batsmen. At 25, he is younger than the likes of Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, but is building a record that stands up to theirs.

He has married his undoubted style with considerable substance: since the start of 2018, he averages 65.5, more than anyone else with more than 500 runs.

In recent Tests he’s gone to another level still, reaching 60 in six innings out of seven. Four of them were turned into hundreds.

Babar showed he has the game to thrive in England in his only Test innings on these shores, 68 not out at Lord’s in 2018, and averaged 68 in last year’s World Cup.

Yasir Shah

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Caused carnage on the tour of England in 2016, when he took 10 wickets in the win at Lord’s and five at the Kia Oval, and remains the world’s best leg spinner.

Finger spin rules the roost in Test cricket right now, so ebullient Yasir bucks the trend; it is possible, though, that Pakistan could pair him with another leggie in Shadab Khan.

Shadab, who is still just 21, could play as an all-rounder batting at no7.

Naseem Shah

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The hottest fast bowling property in world cricket? Debuted aged 16 in Brisbane last year, since when he has taken a five-fer against Sri Lanka and a hat-trick against Bangladesh.

Now 17, he is genuinely quick, has a beautiful action and will trouble England’s top order. Likely to be joined in the attack by Shaheen Shah Afridi, a relative veteran at 20, whose left-arm angle and steepling height make him a handful.

Mohammad Abbas

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A fine foil to Naseem and Afridi, England know all about Abbas.

He ran through them with eight for 64 at Lord’s two years ago and has spent two seasons playing for Leicestershire (and was due to join Stuart Broad at Nottinghamshire this year before the Covid-19 crisis intervened).

The wiliest of operators who relies on old-fashioned English virtues, hammering away at a modest pace in the corridor of uncertainty. It has brought him a Test average of under 21.