Mixed memories of England’s last Test series in Pakistan

It’s amazing to think that I was on England’s last Test tour of Pakistan 17 years ago.

I remember that, from a team perspective, it wasn’t great. We were coming off winning the 2005 Ashes just a couple of months earlier and the team just wasn’t the same, with quite a few injuries.

Simon Jones sadly never played another Test after the Ashes, and we struggled as a team.

But it was an amazing country to play cricket in. I’d never been to Pakistan and I loved the trip, the people are so friendly, so kind and so generous. And they obsess over cricket.

It’s amazing, they know more about your game than you do and when you walk in you feel that love.

I think the players on this tour will feel the love even more because of how long it’s been since England played Test cricket there. The fans will be humbled by the reappearance of the team and give all the players an amazing reception.

England’s tactics will be fascinating

Traditionally, the way to play in Pakistan is to bat with patience and for long periods, because of the nature of the wickets.

Cross-batted shots are usually out of the question. Play straight. Inzamam-ul-Haq, one of the best players in the world in his time, showed that if you play straight, you perform. He was brilliant at it.

When it starts reverse-swinging and spinning later on, that will be the test.

The intrigue in this series is how that marries up with the way that England want to play.

England’s preparation for the first Test obviously hasn’t been ideal, with a virus running through the team, but we still have a good idea of how they are going to go about things.

What will be interesting is whether Brendon McCullum’s tactics will work on slow subcontinental pitches. If the game goes to day four or five, how are they going to deal with those tracks? Spin will come into play and batting collapses are very possible late in the match.

I think on days one and two we’re going to see some really fun cricket because the surfaces are perfect to bat on. We saw England pile on the runs in the warm-up game last week and that’s how they’ll aim to play here.

I do think that when it starts reverse-swinging and spinning later on, that will be the test.

Excited to see Liam Livingstone

I’ve been calling for Liam Livingstone to be involved in the Test match setup for over a year, so it’s hugely exciting that he will make his debut here.

Especially with the way England play now, he’s perfect. Batting down at number seven, hopefully England have lots of runs on the board before he comes in so that he can do his thing with less pressure on.

It’s brilliant to see them taking the positive route. Rob Key and McCullum are just pushing it further and further. They want to see what the limit is and Livingstone coming into the team is the next step towards that.

Other challenges of playing in Pakistan

As a batter, spending long periods of time in the field in that part of the world was very, very boring, to be honest.

The nature of the games means that both teams spend a lot of time fielding in the first three or four days and I was bored out of my brain.

You have to keep yourself concentrated and make sure that you do take any half chance that comes your way, because they might not come along very often.

With the likes of Babar Azam in the Pakistan team, there’s a chance that they will be batting for five or six sessions in a row on some occasions. England are going in with only three specialist bowlers, too, so they could tire quickly.

But I can’t lie, I did find those long sessions boring. That’s probably why I dropped so many catches!

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