Perhaps the most welcome facet of the build up to this third Test is that with the series at one apiece it is both alive and very much uncertain as to the outcome. England may well have well and truly battered Pakistan last time out, but at least much of the press have learnt some lessons from the past and avoided the “momentum” cliché. One sided matches have little effect on the following game, indeed the Ashes last year seemed to provoke the opposite result. Therefore there is no particular reason to assume this match will go the same way.
Indeed, it could be argued that one very special innings from someone who is becoming a very special player ultimately proved the difference. Cricket is what it always has been, an individual game in a team context. A player can have an impact that decides a match, even if the coup de grace occurs a couple of days later.
Pakistan will feel that they had the worst of the conditions at Old Trafford and were beaten by a sublime knock. It happens, and even if it is a crutch on which to lean rather than the whole story, it still means that a fresh start in the next game ensures all possibilities are there.
That said, Edgbaston is a happy hunting ground for England, and a home victory, subject to weather, is probably where the probabilities lie. But a talented Pakistan attack have the capability of ripping through England in any conditions, particularly given the soft middle order. This match is subject to the same vagaries as all the others – two fine bowling attacks, two brittle batting orders.
Where England have had an advantage is in the lower middle order. That is best defined by the lack of comment that replacing the injured Stokes with Finn rather obviously weakens the batting, but only in the sense that it is now simply strong rather than ridiculously so. Moeen at a likely number eight is still a dangerous customer, though he could do with a few runs after his less than impressive dismissals recently. Woakes of course is simply having a golden run with both bat and ball, in the way all rounders seem to do.
Alastair Cook indicated that England would go in with four seamers and a spinner, suggesting that
someone has had a word with the groundsman the pitch is not likely to favour Yasir Shah overly, though proverbially leg spinners do have the ability to turn the ball on glass. He remains a substantial threat, particularly given England’s continued vulnerability to it, Old Trafford notwithstanding.
Edgbaston is one of the more raucous, enjoyable Test venues to visit, and Pakistan should have plenty of support too. If the cricket lives up to the crowd, it might just be something special. Not every Test can be an exceptional one, thus far this series we’ve had one excellent match and one that was too one sided to be truly enjoyable, except for partisan reasons. Here’s hoping we are lucky and get a second good one.
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