England in Pakistan 2022-23 – ‘We’re excited about the prospect of playing in the WTC final’

England may be preparing a long-term plan with their Test team, but the goal for Babar Azam and Pakistan is more immediate: qualifying for the World Test Championship (WTC) final. Pakistan are firmly in the hunt for a top-two finish, but are finding their margin for error shrinking fast – they need to win four of their remaining five Tests this cycle to be in realistic contention. Their place in the final will be assured – if they win all five matches.
Pakistan earmarked this cycle as a prime opportunity for a tilt at the WTC title, with a favorable run of fixtures over the two-year period. However, flurries in games they were expected to win, including a one-wicket defeat against the West Indies last year and a last-day defeat in Sri Lanka in July, left them facing an uphill battle. Also, a 1-0 home series loss to Australia in March made the window even narrower, but with all five Tests remaining at home, Pakistan still feel they have a shot at the top two. .

The Pakistani captain got this target in the press conference on the occasion of the first Test in Rawalpindi. “We are excited about the prospect of playing the WTC final. It is an important series for him. We have a golden opportunity to achieve it if we win four of the next five Tests. [three against England followed by two against New Zealand].

“It took us about a week to prepare for the series, so that was great and gave us some edge and momentum. The best part was that the first-class matches were on so some of the players had already had the Red Ball. They were playing cricket.”

Shaheen Afridi’s absence for the series is the biggest availability issue for Pakistan, especially since Hasan Ali’s absence means the hosts’ bowling line-up will be inexperienced. Naseem Shah’s 13 Tests makes him the most experienced bowling option for Pakistan. Fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Muhammad Ali are yet to make their Test debuts, while spinner Abrar Ahmed is set to play his first Test in Rawalpindi.

“Yes, they have more experience bowling with James Anderson in their ranks and his experience gives them a bit of an edge,” admitted Babar. “But our bowling is good and will give England a tough time. Naseem is bowling well and England are doing what they are doing. [this summer]I am confident in my bowling. I am sure they will do their best to help us win.”

England are struggling with a bug that has crept into camp, which is likely to delay the first Test by a day, but Babar said Pakistan have no such concerns. And he is almost settled in the final XI.

The biggest challenge for Babar comes from the quick adjustment from the shortest to the longest formats. Between the start of the Asia Cup in August and the World Cup final, the T20I was the only format played by Pakistan, with a total of 25 matches. Less than three weeks later, they are set for a high-profile three-match Test series at home.

This was a point which Babur accepted without complaint. “We all know that cricket is very busy. Every month we have something coming up. But as professionals we need to be active. Coming from limited overs cricket to Tests is difficult but as professionals we are used to it. “

After missing out on the ICC title earlier this month, Babar seems to have already turned his attention to the next one. The next five weeks will determine whether Pakistan have done enough to put themselves in contention for him.

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