Well-prepared, ready for first Test against England: Babar Azam

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ISLAMABAD:Pakistani Skipper Babar Azam believes the national team is well-prepared for the first Test against England beginning Thursday saying we are ready for the big game.

“The way we have prepared, we, as a team are ready for the Test match. We have an edge that our first class cricket was going on and majority of our team mates were busy in the season, so it is good for the First Test,” he said in a presser at Pindi Stadium, Rawalpindi on Wednesday.

Babar said the players took benefit of the experience of former Test cricketer Muhammad Yousaf who was also the coach of the national team.

“The test matches he has played in England and others, we ask him of what mindset he was in the games and the way he used to handle the bowlers.

So, whenever we have a meeting, his input is very important and you get a lot of help when such great players are with you,” he said.

The prolific batsman said, “We have almost decided the Playing XI and hopefully it would be revealed.

We are having a bit of discussions on some of the players of what combinations are we going to go with, in the game, but we have shortlisted the players,” he said.

The Lahore-born cricketer was of the view that the conditions at the venue would favour both teams.

“We will take both departments (fast and spin bowling) along and bring the best out of them.”

To a question, he said he had heard that some English players were unwell, but hopefully they would recover soon as we want all of them to play in the game.

He said it was an honour for him to represent Pakistan in all three formats and there was no pressure on him in this regard.

“I try to give my best performances but ups and downs are part of the game.

I never think of the captaincy, so much, as Allah has given me the honour and only he can take it.

I’m not perfect and I always try to learn,” he said.

Speaking about the Test matches against England and New Zealand for the World Test Championship, Babar said he was excited as the series is very important.

“We will try to play competitive cricket and make it to the finals of the World Test Championship.

The beauty of a Test match is that it tests a player’s temperament and patience as per the situation,” he said.

In a special message to the Pindi crowd, he said the crowd had always come to the stadium to witness the games and cheer up for the players.

“My message to them is to come to the stadium and support both teams (Pakistan & England) in the Test match,” he said.

He said bowlers Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Muhammad Ali and Faheem Ashraf were dominating in the game.

“No matter who ever is the opponent we try to stick to the plan and execute it accordingly. I have full belief on my spinner and pacers they will provide us with the visitor’s wickets,” he said.

Babar said the difference between Pakistan and England’s bowling was just that England pacers were a bit more experienced.

“Whenever you play in home conditions you try to make wickets that suit your batting and bowling,” he said.

He said Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja had complete confidence on them, “just like the way I believe on the players.”

On English Skipper Ben Stokes to donate his match fees for the flood affected victims in Pakistan, Babar said it was a very good gesture on part of him and “I urge Pakistanis all over the World to help the flood victims in this regard.”

The Rawalpindi Test, which begins on Thursday would be followed by Tests in Multan (December 9-13) and Karachi (December 17-21).

These Tests are part of the ICC World Test Championship, and Pakistan are presently fifth, while England are seven on the championship table.

When England last played in Pakistan in 2005 under Michael Vaughan, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s side had won the three-Test series 2-0. Prior to the 2005 series, Nasser Hussain had led England to a six-wicket victory in Karachi in 2000, marking their first Test win in Pakistan in 39 years that also handed Pakistan their first-ever Test loss in Karachi.

Since the 2005 series and due to situation beyond the Pakistan Cricket Board’s control, Pakistan hosted England in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 2012 and 2015, winning five of the six Tests.

While the recent past performances in their home Test series makes Pakistan a favourite, Ben Stokes-led England have also done enough, probably more, to start off with a favourite tag.

Stokes led England to ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 title at Lord’s, while on 13 November in Melbourne, he stroked a sparkling half-century against Pakistan to add the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup title to the collection.

During their home summer season, England defeated New Zealand 3-0 and South Africa 2-1 in Brendon McCullum’s maiden series as head coach.

On the ICC rankings charts, England is ranked fourth, while Pakistan is sixth – 11 points behind.

If Pakistan wins the series 2-0, they’ll move to 99, while England will slip to 99. In the scenario of Pakistan winning the series 1-0, Pakistan will rise to 97 points and England will drop to 100 points.

In the ICC player rankings for Test batters, Root was the No.1 ranked batter, while Babar Azam is ranked number-three. 16th ranked Mohammad Rizwan, 20th-ranked Abdullah Shafique, 21st-ranked Ben Stokes and 25th-ranked Azhar Ali are the other batters from either side to feature the top 25.

Amongst the bowlers, fifth-ranked James Anderson will start as the highest-ranked bowler from either side. Naseem Shah is Pakistan’s highest-ranked bowler in 59th spot.

Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain & WK), Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shan Masood and Zahid Mehmood.

England squad: Ben Stokes (c), Ben Foakes (wk), Joe Root, James Anderson, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Will Jacks, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Liam Livingstone, Jamie Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Rehan Ahmed.

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