England`s captain Ben Stokes (2L) shakes hands with Pakistan`s Naseem Shah (C) after their victory at the end of the fifth and final day of the first cricket Test match between Pakistan and England at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.Pic/AFP
England are pondering over various options in a selection dilemma as Ben Stokes & Co attempt to find their best combination to clinch a Test series victory in Pakistan through the second game in Multan, starting on Friday.
Despite doubts over the first Test in Rawalpindi starting on time as a virus bug swept through the visitors* camp, England were fit enough to field a playing eleven as per the original schedule of the tour and thoroughly dominated the match on the flattest of pitches to register a famous 74-run victory over Pakistan.
Tearaway fast bowler Mark Wood and first-choice wicketkeeper Ben Foakes missed the epic victory in Rawalpindi due to injury and illness respectively. But the duo appear to be fit again for the Multan Test, which could be under the cloud of winter fog apart from unhealthy air.
With all-rounder Liam Livingstone missing the series due to the knee injury he picked up on the second day of the Rawalpindi Test, Will Jacks, despite picking 6/161 on debut, could become the unlucky player to make way if Foakes is fit to take the keeping duties from stand-in keeper Ollie Pope.
"We*ll have to consider all our different options. I think there are a few different options we are going to lay out in front of each other, and try and understand what is the best option to try and win this Test match. Because we have got a few other factors that we have to contend with."
"That*s the great thing about where we*re at the moment. We found ourselves in that situation (illness prior to the first Test) and we still managed to pick a team that was strong enough to win a game. As I said, we are going to have a conversation at some point about what we feel is the best route to go," said Stokes ahead of the Multan Test.
Wood had returned England colours on the seven-match T20I tour of Pakistan and went on to play a huge role in England*s T20 World Cup victory in Australia, though a hip injury ruled him out of the semi-final and final clashes, followed by the Test side*s preparatory camp in Abu Dhabi.
Stokes feels that Wood*s return will give England an extra edge in their bowling attack, mainly to execute a short-ball strategy, which was used well b* the visitors* in Rawalpindi. "I mean it is definitely an added bonus. It*s a lot better having someone bowling 150kph bouncers rather than me, Robbo (Ollie Robinson) and Jimmy (Anderson) at 80mph trying to do it."
"I think wherever you go in the world, conditions, whatever it is, having someone at Woody*s pace is an absolute bonus. Whether he*s bowling short or full, at that pace it*s always going to be difficult to face. It*s great to have him fit and recovering from his injuries and he*s definitely put his name into the hat for selection."
Though England are out of contention for reaching next year*s World Test Championship (WTC) final, they can severely hamper Pakistan*s chances of reaching the final. The Babar Azam-led side, who are currently in fifth place in the standings with a 46.67 win percentage. need to win their remaining four Test matches at home to have a chance of reaching the WTC final.
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