In fielding England are distinctly superior. In pace bowling there is little between the teams, although Pakistan will have three practitioners to England’s four, while in batting Pakistan could argue that their stats equal England’s, with the qualification that most of their runs were made in Asia, The Telegraph said in a report on Monday.
It is in spin bowling that Pakistan is distinctly superior. In Yasir Shah the tourists have the world’s finest wrist-spinner. He has taken 76 wickets in his 12 Tests – a sensational rate which, if theoretically sustained, would give him more wickets per Test than any other bowler of the last hundred years.
Shah has never played a Test outside Asia before, and his first visit to Lord’s will be this week, but if he is a reserved man he is not insecure. He is a green-eyed Pakhtun, or Pathan as the name used to be, and his people – from Afghanistan originally – are not renowned for bowing the knee.
“I have two older brothers and one younger brother,” Shah said in English. “My father liked cricket but he didn’t play. Club cricket there (in Swabi) is very good – Junaid Khan (another of Pakistan’s left-arm pace bowlers, who has played 22 Tests) is from Swabi.”
“I was 12 years old when I started cricket – school cricket – every school in Swabi one team,” Shah continued in English. “From school I got selected for Pakistan Under-15 trials.”
Through the interpreter Shah explains that his first mentor was a cousin, Amadullah Khan, a good cricketer before moving to Bradford: “He is the first person from Swabi playing department cricket,” Shah added in English. Playing for a department in Pakistan is like being picked for a franchise in the IPL or the Big Bash: it means you could make it big time, after being removed from the rut of routine domestic first-class cricket.