England bat first at Multan as Pakistan ring three changes

Toss England win the toss and bat first against Pakistan

The mystery spinner, Abrar Ahmed, is one of three changes to Pakistan’s XI for the second Test in Multan, as the hosts seek to battle back from their 74-run defeat at Rawalpindi last week.

Legspinner Abrar, who claimed 42 wickets at 21.95 for Sindh in this season’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, was presented with his first Test cap by Pakistan’s coach, Saqlain Mushtaq, and will be into action imminently, after England won the toss for the second time in the series and chose once again to bat first.

England memorably posted a first-day record score of 506 for 4 on the opening day of the series last week, and though Ben Stokes promised that his team would seek to get back onto the front foot once again, he was slightly coy about the prospects of a repeat performance on a slightly drier, more cracked pitch that may potentially offer more to the bowlers.

“I don’t think we can read into it too much, see what it offers in the first hour, but we’ll see if we can set the same benchmark with some exciting positive cricket,” Stokes said.

Naseem Shah, who was visibly struggling with a shoulder issue during the first Test, is also sitting out the match for Pakistan, along with Azhar Ali, who had to retire hurt early in the second innings following a blow to the finger, and proved unable to shore up their batting when he returned on the final day.

Pakistan’s selectors were criticised for the lop-sided team they put out for the first Test, and have addressed that to a degree with the inclusion of two allrounders in Mohammad Nawaz and Faheem Ashraf.

Babar Azam, Pakistan’s captain, acknowledged that it had once again been a good toss for England to win. “Definitely batting first,” he said. “The pitch looks dry but we need to bowl in good areas.”

England, meanwhile, have none of the concerns that dogged them at the same stage of the first Test, when a sickness bug nearly forced a 24-delay to the start of the game. They named their XI on the eve of the game, with Mark Wood returning in place of the injured Liam Livingstone to provide an extreme pace option, and Ollie Pope retaining the gloves over Ben Foakes.

Despite the pre-match concerns about smog in Multan, the morning has dawned hazy but without any significant visibility issues, and play is set to begin on time.

Pakistan 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Abdullah Shafique, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Saud Shakeel, 5 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 6 Agha Salman, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Zahid Mahmood, 10 Abrar Ahmed, 11 Mohammad Ali

England 1 Zak Crawley, 2 Ben Duckett, 3 Ollie Pope (wk), 4 Joe Root, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Ben Stokes (capt), 7 Will Jacks, 8 Ollie Robinson, 9 Jack Leach, 10 Mark Wood, 11 James Anderson

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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