England v Pakistan 1st Test: Amir can drown out boos to impress on Lord’s return
Sam Barnard, Assistant Sports Editor | July 12, 2016
England v Pakistan
- First Test of four
- Thursday, July 14th
- Play starts: 11:00 BST
- Lord’s, London
- Live on Sky Sports 2
Amir out for Lord’s redemption
Pakistan have fared reasonably well when facing England at Lord’s, having lost just four times in 13 attempts, so are tempting 16/5 shouts with Coral to win this opening Test of four that starts on Thursday.
However, it is of course the same ground that was the subject of the infamous spot-fixing scandal that saw Men in Green stars Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir serve prison sentences and bans from cricket for at least five years.
The latter is due to make his return to Tests for the first time since that Lord’s battle in 2010, and the main focus has understandably been on the 24-year-old, whose had both support and criticism from past and present players.
Despite Amir being found guilty of purposely bowling no-balls, he was named Man of the Series prior to his sentence, after claiming two five-wicket hauls, including one at the Home of Cricket.
The Punjab-born left-arm seamer is 19/20 to gain over 2.5 first innings dismissals in his bid to win back the crowd, or a more tempting 9/4 price to be best Pakistan bowler.
Batsmen key for England success
But the likes of Alastair Cook, who has been critical of Amir’s return, and his fellow England batsmen will be determined to let the starlet shine.
Captain Cook, who has four hundreds to his name against Pakistan including one at Lord’s almost exactly a decade ago, is a 7/2 chance to be best batsman for his team in the opening innings.
His deputy Joe Root, meanwhile, will be desperate to get back among the scorers, after having a relatively quiet series against Sri Lanka this year. The Yorkshireman tops the same market at 11/4, while is also the subject of an enhanced Coral special with odds of 6/1.
Two of Root’s clubmates will also be looking to impress, as Jonny Bairstow (11/2) retains the gloves after some terrific form and an injury to Jos Buttler, and Gary Ballance (also 11/2) gets a recall to the setup.
Alex Hales (9/2) keeps his place as Cook’s opening partner too, as he put in some steady displays at the top of the order against Sri Lanka, while James Vince (8/1) and Chris Woakes (25/1) will be hoping to stay in the XI too.
In the bowling department, with James Anderson out injured, Stuart Broad will relish being the main. The tall paceman is 2/1 to be best with the ball for England in the first innings.
Steven Finn, Chris Woakes (both 7/2) and spinner Moeen Ali (11/2) will provide able cover, while one of Jake Ball (9/2) or Toby Roland-Jones (4/1) will make their international debut.
Can Pakistan’s ageing batsmen cope throughout series?
While Pakistan have the youth of Amir, it is fair to say that they have an ageing batting line-up. Openers Misbah-ul-Haq (9/2 to be top batsman for the visitors) and Mohammad Hafeez (also 9/2) are 42 and 35 respectively, and the legendary Younis Khan (10/3) is now 38.
Azhar Ali is relatively young in comparison at 31, and the vice-captain warmed up for this series with a knock of 145 against county side Sussex. He’s 10/3 in the batting market too, and a much longer 18/1 in an enhanced wincast.
For all the Men in Green’s experience in batsmen, no bowler has gained more Test appearances than Amir in the current squad, despite him being much younger and having not played in six years in this form of the game.
Going by their bowling weakness, then, England are the odds-on 4/5 match favourites, though a draw at 12/5 might be tempting, as the two sides have shared the spoils six times here before and weather may play a part too.
Coral’s top tip: Mohammad Amir is a tasty 9/4 shout to be top Pakistan bowler in the first innings on his Test return.