Pakistan and England set to clash in a historic three-match Test series, starting from December 1.
Both teams have competed in 86 matches in the longest format of the game where it is very close as the Green Caps managed to win 21 times whereas they suffered defeats on 26 occasions and 39 times the game ended in a draw.
This will be the first time when both teams will face off in the five-day format in Pakistan after a gap of nearly two decades.
The last time when England travelled to the South Asian country back in 2005-06 when the home side emerged victorious with the score of 2-0.
Pakistan will enter the series as slight favourites despite losing in their last outing when they played on home soil against Australia.
The reason is that despite losing the series, they played good cricket and had a rare bad outing. Not only that but they will be up against an English side that just had a slight resurgence since the arrival of the new think tank and it is unclear how they will play in away conditions where the ball will likely spin.
For the home team, the most interesting aspect will be whether they will have the services of star pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi. The left-armer struggled with fitness in the recently concluded International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup and eventually ended up injuring his knee in the final as well while taking the catch.
If Shaheen will not be selected for the series, the Green Caps will have a hard time finding an apt replacement and therefore, Haris Rauf might get a chance to make his debut in the five-day format.
In the batting department, the home team will be relying once again on the likes of captain Babar Azam, in-form openers Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique along with experienced Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam to score the bulk of the runs.
Out of the above-mentioned five, the form of three will be under scrutiny, especially of Azhar and Fawad as both have struggled in the recent past.
In the bowling department, there might be a surprise with the inclusion of mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed. The 24-year-old is by far the leading wicket-taker in Pakistan’s premier four-day competition — Quaid-e-Azam (QeA) Trophy — with 43 scalps to his name in just 12 innings at an outstanding strike-rate of just 44.20, which included five-wicket haul.
He can be included in place of either Yasir Shah or Nauman Ali, both of whom are having a mediocre time with the ball in hand in the QeA Trophy with just 14 and 19 wickets to their names in nine and 12 innings, respectively.
In the pacers department, there is a likelihood of the return of Mohammad Abbas as well as left-arm fast-bowler Mir Hamza. They will be accompanied by Naseem Shah and the trio can form a lethal bowling attack.
On the other hand, England will be entering the contest on the back of an impressive T20 World Cup triumph in Australia which made them the first team in the history of men’s cricket to hold two world titles in different formats at the same time.
The arrival of Brendon McCullum as the head coach in the five-day format has definitely transformed the struggling Test side into one of the most exciting teams in the world and therefore, they will fancy their chances against a Pakistan team, that too without someone like Shaheen Shah Afridi.
However, it will be interesting to see whether they will be able to carry the same approach on their first major tour away from home where the conditions will be completely different to how they are in England.
In terms of the squad composition, there are definitely some interesting names in Liam Livingstone, Harry Brook, Ben Duckett and Will Jacks, all of whom have experience of playing in the country in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
The only major absentee for the side will be of veteran pacer Stuart Broad who will not be available as he will be on paternity leave.
In the batting department, the onus will be on the likes of star batter Joe Root, captain Ben Stokes, Livingstone and Zak Crawley to score the bulk of the runs and give the bowlers something to bowl with.
On the bowling front, the onus will be on the pace department consisting of James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, Jamie Overton and Mark Wood to dismantle the home team’s batting lineup.
This will be the first time when an England team will be visiting Pakistan in more than 15 years and therefore, it is not easy to predict an outright winner.
On paper at least, both teams look pretty similar but the conditions will give the home team advantage and therefore, the prediction for the Pakistan and England historic test series is that Pakistan will be secure a 2-1 win in the series.