Pakistan looking to exploit England’s ‘fragile’ top order after arriving for tour, says Azhar Ali

Pakistan captain Azhar Ali says his side will be looking to target England’s “fragile” top order during the three-Test series later this summer.

Azhar and 19 other Pakistan players arrived in England on Sunday to begin preparations for a tour which will also include three T20 internationals.

The visiting skipper feels his side can exploit England’s inexperienced top order in the Test matches in August, with the three men seemingly competing for the opening spots – Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley – having played just the 25 Tests between them.

Speaking before Pakistan departed, Azhar told reporters: “Looking at their batting, their top order has been fragile for some time since Alastair Cook retired.

“They have tried a lot of combinations lately and might be looking a bit more settled, but they haven’t been really confident with it. So there is something for us in it to look at.

“Their bowling attack is brilliant in their own conditions. Other than Jofra Archer we have faced all of them – Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood, but we have still won against them.”

Pakistan have drawn Test series on their last two visits to England – 2-2 in 2016 under the captaincy of now head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and 1-1 in 2018 when Sarfaraz Ahmed was skipper.

The tourists’ preparation for this trip has been hit by 10 players from the initial 29-man Test and T20I squad testing positive for coronavirus and not travelling to England as yet.

Six of those players – Mohammad Hafeez, Wahab Riaz, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Rizwan and Mohammad Hasnain – have since tested negative but must record a second negative test before being permitted to fly to England.

Pakistan will now quarantine and train at Worcestershire’s Blackfinch New Road for 14 days, before a planned move to Derbyshire’s Incora County Ground on July 13 to begin internal warm-up matches.

Ahzar says his side are now “hungry” to play cricket again having not been in action internationally since an innings win over Bangladesh in February.

“Obviously this news about positive [coronavirus tests] gave us a scare,” added Azhar. “But we are happy now. The wait is over and cricket is resuming. There is a lot of excitement and hunger to play cricket.

“Now we have a month in England for preparation and hopefully this is a sufficient time to focus on skills and get back in our groove. The boys are confident and looking forward for the tour which hopefully will go smoothly.”

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