Anticipated four-Test series begins at Lord’s.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and elected to bat in the first Test against England at Lord’s on Thursday.
As expected, Mohammad Amir returned for his first Test appearance since the infamous “spot-fixing” match against England at Lord’s in 2010. That match saw Amir and Pakistan new-ball partner Mohammad Asif deliberately bowl no-balls on the instructions of then captain Salman Butt as part of a sting operation carried out by a tabloid newspaper.
All three received five-year bans from cricket and, together with sports agent Mazhar Majeed, jail terms.
For all his time out of cricket, the 24-year-old Amir retains the ability to swing the ball late at sharp pace, as he showed with a first-innings haul of three for 36 in Pakistan’s drawn tour opener against Somerset before he was rested from last week’s draw with Sussex.
Pakistan fielded three left-arm quicks on Thursday in Amir, Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali, with leg-spinner Yasir Shah completing a four-man attack. This was Pakistan’s first series in England since 2010 and Thursday’s match was the 42-year-old Misbah’s first appearance at Lord’s.
England had already named their side on Wednesday, with Nottinghamshire quick Jake Ball given a debut in place of James Anderson, England’s all-time leading wicket-taker. Anderson, although eager to prove his fitness following a shoulder injury, was left out of England’s squad for this match even though coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Alastair Cook were reportedly keen for him to be included.
Ball has taken 37 first-class wickets at an average of just 22 so far this season. Before the start of play he was presented with his Test cap by his uncle and former England wicketkeeper Bruce French.
England, who recently won a three-match home series against Sri Lanka, recalled Gary Ballance to their batting line-up after Nick Compton opted to take time out of cricket.
Joe Root was set to fill Compton’s place at number three—even though his Test average as a top three batsman is under 34 compared to the mark of more than 63 batting at four or five.
Ballance was due to bat at number five.
An initially sunny day at Lord’s would have encouraged Haq to bat first although the skies had clouded over a touch after he won the toss. But so good have the pitches been at Lord’s this season, that all of Middlesex’s County Championship matches at the ground have ended in draw.
This is the first of a four-Test series.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wicketkeeper), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Jake Ball
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali
Umpires: Kumar Dharmasena, Joel Wilson
TV umpire: Rod Tucker
Match referee: Richie Richardson