The teams are out and lined up for the anthems. David Gower’s lugubrious tones can be heard on the tv commentary. Moeen commands his men, sets his field. Rizwan and Babar stroll to the crease – the wicket is malted milk hued and looks rock hard. David Willey has the new ball in his left mitt. The crowd are up for this, so am I!
Alex Hales has been speaking to Sky Sports:
The esteemed Andy Bull is our man on the ground in Karachi, his evocative piece from the polo ground is well worth your time.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Haider Ali, Shan Masood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Usman Qadir, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani
(Derbyshire’s) Shan Masood makes his debut and Rizwan is rested… from his rest – he plays.
England: Phil Salt (wk), Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, Ben Duckett, Harry Brook, Moeen Ali (c), Sam Curran, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Luke Wood, Richard Gleeson
Luke Wood is presented with his debut cap by Jos Buttler. It’s a new-ish look England – Hales, Duckett, Wood.
Moeen Ali calls correctly under the Karachi lights. He speaks just afterwards about the importance of the occasion: “It’s massive for us and massive for Pakistan as well. I’ve not been to Pakistan much in my life so to represent England as captain here is amazing.”
Moeen also confirms that Alex Hales will play. “Alex Hales comes in after three years which is amazing for him.” Confirmed teams and comment from along Babar in a sec.
December 21, 2005. England’s weary cricketers trudge off the field under the misty haze of the Rawalpindi floodlights. A consolation ODI victory chalked up thanks to a match winning 4-48 by a 23 year old slippery seam bowler called James Anderson. As the players head off the dew sopped outfield and thoughts turn to flying home for Christmas, none of them were to know that they would be the last England men’s cricket side to play in Pakistan for nearly two decades.
Today, England return, belatedly, after seventeen long years. James Anderson is, inevitably, the only player from that series still plying his trade. Back in 2005, Duncan Fletcher’s England squad lost their Ashes glow under the South-Asian sun – succumbing in both the three Test series (2-0) and the following five match ODI series (3-2 ).
Since that tour the two sides have duked it out in England and the UAE, the storied rivalry between the two sides has bubbled along, memorable for reasons both on and off the pitch. One thing is certain – English cricket owes Pakistan a debt for helping them keep the lights on, arriving to help as they did in the guts of the pandemic in the UK, an act of cricketing solidarity made all the more pertinent when England failed to return the favour, pulling out of a return to Pakistan last summer in chaotic and confusing circumstances.
They are there now though, in Karachi to be exact and will be led by Moeen Ali. Ali, whose family roots are in Pakistan, has spoken about how meaningful it is to return and lead England there.
“I wanted to be part of this. It’s a big thing when England come to Pakistan, more than any other country, England’s the one that the Pakistan fans really love to see coming here.”
The games come thick and fast from here, seven T20Is crammed in to ten or so days, both teams on fact-finding missions ahead of the World Cup in Australia next month. England will be back again for three Test matches before Christmas but lets enjoy the white ball whacking first, it feels like a quietly momentous series and beginning of a new cricketing chapter between these two sides.
Play will be underway in 30 minutes, I’ll be back very shortly with news of the teams and the toss. As ever, drop me a line with any comments, thoughts or theories.