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‘Fearless’ Pakistan ready to put England under pressure


London – Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur believes his
“fearless” side have everything to gain when they face an “under
the pump” England in the first Test at Lord’s on Thursday. 

England will be looking for some much-needed home comfort
after recent winless Test tours of Australia and New Zealand extended their
poor away record in cricket’s longest format to 13 matches without a victory. 

Pakistan, by contrast, enter this two-match campaign on the
back of a morale-boosting five-wicket win over Test debutants Ireland at
Malahide last week. 

“We haven’t come here not to win,” Arthur told
reporters at Lord’s on Tuesday. 

“It’s a changing room full of very, very skilled
cricketers, very young cricketers, fearless cricketers. If we get the breaks
and things go our way, they will certainly put England under pressure.” 

England, in their first Test since Ed Smith became their new
head selector, continue to have doubts over a batting order where captain Joe
Root has been promoted to number three, wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow to five
and Jos Buttler recalled at seven. 

And with Jack Leach injured, England could give a Test debut
to his fellow Somerset spinner Dominic Bess. 

“In their home conditions, England are a different team
to England abroad,” said Arthur. “We’ve had a look obviously at
Buttler, he adds an attacking side to England.” 

Two years ago, England were held to a 2-2 home draw by
Pakistan in a four-Test series. 

Since then veteran batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan
have both retired, with Pakistan hoping the likes of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq
can fill the void. 

But it is Imam-ul-Haq, the nephew of Pakistan selection
chief and former Test batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, who has made three fifties from
as many games this tour – including a match-clinching innings against Ireland. 

“He’s a totally different character to Inzi,” said
Arthur of Imam, a 22-year-old left-handed opener, who is somewhat quicker
between the wickets than his celebrated uncle. 

“He played beautifully for us, under pressure, against
Ireland in his Test debut.” 

Arthur believes Pakistan are fitter now than when he took
over two years ago and more aggressive with it. 

“We are an incredibly fit unit. The guys have trained
unbelievably hard, not that we weren’t coming in 2016 but that was the start of
almost the fitness regime,” he said. 

“The brand of cricket we are playing is certainly more
attacking. We felt we needed to change with the times and get another bowler
in,” the former South Africa and Australia coach explained of a side
captained by wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed. 

Much could depend on Pakistan left-arm quick Mohammad Amir,
who has enjoyed Test success and a Champions Trophy triumph in England, as well
as a 2017 County Championship title with Essex, since his career was almost
ended by his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal at Lord’s during the 2010
tour. 

If the 20-year-old Bess plays he won’t be the youngest slow
bowler in the match, with 19-year-old Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan
replacing the injured Yasir Shah. 

England appear set to decide between seam-bowling
all-rounder Chris Woakes and injury-prone fast bowler Mark Wood for the last
place in their XI, with one of pacemen Rahat Ali or Hasan Ali dropped from
Pakistan’s 12-man squad. 

“There will be an Ali playing!” joked Arthur. 

Meanwhile Buttler was well aware of the threat posed by
Pakistan, whose last Test at Lord’s saw them beat England by 75 runs. 

“They’ve lost some experience, but as we saw in the
Champions Trophy, Pakistan are a very strong side,” he said. 

England will field a trio of Test veterans in opener
Alastair Cook and the new-ball duo of Stuart Broad and James Anderson. 

“With all that comes a lot of responsibility and
accountability,” said Arthur. “A couple are under the pump. 

“Our guys don’t fear that at the moment. They are
looking to grab the opportunity with both hands. 

“I just hope they do because if they do it solidifies
exactly what we want to do with Pakistan cricket.”

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