After defeat in the first Test at Lord’s, England approach the second match of the series with the knowledge that there is little room for failure.
After naming an unusually large 14-man squad, the hosts seem to be keeping their options open, with plenty of permutations over team selection.
Who will they go for, and how will they get on?
Here’s what to look for in Manchester:
1 Will ‘Unprintable’ Moeen Ali Get The Boot?
‘Unprintable on the radio’ was how Geoffrey Boycott described the shot that got Moeen Ali out in the second innings at Lord’s, and with Alastair Cook bemoaning his team’s ‘naïve batting’ then it could be that he is the one who ends up paying the price in a revamped line-up.
Adil Rashid stands by for the spinners’ slot, and although there is talk that England could play both, the fact that they haven’t won a home Test using two spinners since 1985 should suggest that is unlikely.
Rashid Is 10.00 to be the top bowler in the first innings
2 Ben Stokes The Specialist Batsman?
A few overs in Durham’s County Championship match against Lancashire – inconveniently taking place at the same time as the Lord’s Test – was apparently all that Ben Stokes needed to prove his fitness for this one, but will his bowling talents really be needed?
If, as expected, both he and James Anderson come into the side, then it doesn’t necessarily need to be at the expense of Jake Ball and Steven Finn, with the latter somewhat unfairly criticised in the wake of last weekend’s defeat.
Keeping Finn in and dropping one of Gary Ballance or James Vince might be the way to go.
Stokes is 17.00 to be the top batsman in the first innings
3 Is James Anderson Fully Fit?
Also featuring in that Championship game was a certain James Anderson, who will be back in England whites on his home ground after missing that first Test defeat.
The announcement of his name is certain to draw the loudest of cheers from the Manchester crowd, but presumably there is a reason why England were so careful with his fitness and made him prove it in less testing conditions.
If he’s not at 100% then the tourists could expose that.
Anderson is 6.00 to take five wickets in the first innings
4 Can Joe Root Get Runs At No. 3?
Non-cricket followers often ridicule the importance that fans of the sport place on what seem to be fairly trivial matters, with the batting order usually amongst them.
Promoting Joe Root from No. 4 – where he was excelling – to No. 3 might not seem to be that big of a deal, but it is the psychological impact it has on the player which is the most crucial thing.
Seeing his name one place higher on the scorecard seems to have disrupted Root’s rhythm somewhat, and he looked in fine form in the first innings at Lord’s before throwing his wicket away.
He could do with a big score here.
Root is 1.87 to score over 34.5 runs in the first innings
5 Is Yasir Shah The Best Leg-Spinner Since Shane Warne?
He didn’t face him at Lord’s, but Stokes gave high praise to Yasir Shah after his 10 wickets at the Home of Cricket, calling the Pakistan star ‘the best leg-spinner since Shane Warne.’ If that’s true then we might be about to see something special again.
Although Old Trafford is a very different ground these days, Warne took 21 wickets at an average of 20 in three Ashes appearances there, something that Yasir will be looking to emulate as he bids to put his side 2-0 up.
Much of England’s ‘naïve’ batting was up against his spin, and if there is to be a man to win this clash for the tourists then it’s likely to be him.
Yasir is 11.00 to be man of the match
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