The 2-1 win over West Indies took England to third in the ICC World Test Championship points table after it gained 80 points. Two more wins in this series will take it above Australia, which is placed at No.2.
Visitor Pakistan is in fifth position and even a single win would put it level on points with New Zealand. The away side has been in England for a while and has played two intra-squad warm-up matches.
But Misbah-ul-Haq, the head coach, has made it clear that performances in the warm-up game will not influence the starting XI too much. It will be interesting to see whether Sohail Khan, who picked up two five-wicket hauls in the two games and has a history of performing well in England with five-wicket hauls at Birmingham and The Oval in 2016, makes the cut in the starting XI.
The selectors might consider Sohail ahead of Mohammad Abbas, who averages 66.2 in his last two away Test series in South Africa and Australia, for a place in the starting XI. However, Abbas himself performed reasonably well in the warm-ups and picked up 10 wickets in two Tests on Pakistan’s previous tour of England in 2018.
With the Manchester surface expected to take turn, Misbah has hinted at playing two spinners. Pakistan might look to play three seamers, and Yasir Shah with Shadab Khan being a spin-bowling all-rounder.
England, particularly its pace attack, is brimming with confidence after the recent series win. The composition of the pace attack could once again be under scrutiny. It is likely to retain the same team from the last Test against West Indies and could possibly rotate the seamers over the course of the series.
If Ben Stokes is fit to bowl, it might ponder leaving a fast bowler out to play an additional batsman in Zak Crawley.
The last two Test series in England between these sides were drawn after Pakistan won Tests at Lord’s (2016 and 2018) and The Oval (2016). England has had a tendency to lose the first game of a series in recent years.
In eight of its last ten Test series, England had lost the first Test match, including the losses against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2016 and 2018. Against West Indies, in the recently concluded series too, England lost the first Test at Southampton.