February 6, 2023

LAWRENCE BOOTH: England preparations affected as flight delayed due to fog in Multan

LAWRENCE BOOTH: England arrive in Multan exhausted but jubilant after their flight is delayed by over three hours due to fog… as Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum mull over potential changes after impressive first Test win

  • England arrive into Multan on the back of their excellent first Test performance 
  • Their flight to Multan was delayed by over three hours due to fog in the area 
  • England have some big decisions to make ahead of their second Test in Multan 

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England arrived in Multan exhausted but jubilant, hoping the weather wouldn’t succeed where Pakistan fell short in the first Test and throw a spanner in the Bazball works.

Plans of settling in quickly ahead of Friday’s second match were scuppered when the team’s charter flight from Islamabad was delayed by three and a half hours because of fog in Multan.

And there were fears that a typical day’s play here could be even shorter than in Rawalpindi, where an average of only 78 overs – 12 shy of the daily allocation – were possible because of the early sunset.

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum must decide how much to tinker with the England team that spent the first Test ignoring convention in their impressive display against Pakistan

Preparations for the second Test were affected as England's flight from Islamabad was delayed by three and a half hours due to fog in Multan

Preparations for the second Test were affected as England's flight from Islamabad was delayed by three and a half hours due to fog in Multan

Preparations for the second Test were affected as England’s flight from Islamabad was delayed by three and a half hours due to fog in Multan

Multan lies on the banks of the Chenab River, and the fog that forms every morning does not easily shift. It gets smoggy too: the quality of the city’s air registered on one app as ‘very unhealthy’.

The Multan Cricket Stadium has not staged a Test for 16 years, and local journalists are bemused it has been chosen now. But Lahore was ruled out because of winter smog, and England must prove adaptable again as they aim to clinch the series against opponents still shaken by events in Rawalpindi.

‘England is introducing a new style of cricket to the world,’ said Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan after his side’s stunning 74-run defeat on Monday. ‘Pakistan cannot change its gameplay overnight.’

While the hosts fret over how to counter England’s aggression, and what kind of pitch to prepare, Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum must decide how much to tinker with the team that spent the first Test ignoring convention.

Ben Foakes has recovered from illness and is a straight swap for Liam Livingstone, whose tour has been ended by a knee injury. He will also reclaim the gloves from Ollie Pope, who proved a more than able stand-in, with six catches and a stumping, to say nothing of his first-innings century.

Ben Foakes (pictured) will come in for Liam Livingstone whose tour was ended by injury

Ben Foakes (pictured) will come in for Liam Livingstone whose tour was ended by injury

Ben Foakes (pictured) will come in for Liam Livingstone whose tour was ended by injury

England will have a decision to make on whether to recall fast bowler Mark Wood

England will have a decision to make on whether to recall fast bowler Mark Wood

England will have a decision to make on whether to recall fast bowler Mark Wood 

A trickier question will be whether to recall fast bowler Mark Wood, fit again after sustaining a hip injury during the T20 World Cup, and capable of the kind of short-pitched hostility that undermined the start of Pakistan’s run-chase on Sunday evening.

England felt a seamer light at times in Rawalpindi, with Stokes bowling only 11 overs in the match until a typically lung-bursting effort on the final afternoon.

And that could mean Wood replaces Will Jacks, who picked up six wickets in Pakistan’s first innings with his off-breaks but went at 4.28 an over throughout the Test and wasn’t used after lunch on the last day.

One thing is clear: neither Jimmy Anderson nor Ollie Robinson, who each bowled heroically for four wickets in Pakistan’s second innings, will want to step aside.

Less than a year ago, when his fitness was publicly criticised by the England management, the suggestion that Robinson might play back-to-back Tests in conditions as punishing as this would have been ridiculed. But he is a different beast now – and is ready to push himself again.

Neither Jimmy Anderson (centre) and Ollie Robinson (right) will want to step aside after they each bowled heroically for four wickets in Pakistan's second innings during the first Test

Neither Jimmy Anderson (centre) and Ollie Robinson (right) will want to step aside after they each bowled heroically for four wickets in Pakistan's second innings during the first Test

Neither Jimmy Anderson (centre) and Ollie Robinson (right) will want to step aside after they each bowled heroically for four wickets in Pakistan’s second innings during the first Test

‘I woke up on the final morning and didn’t feel sore,’ he said, after his spell of bouncers the previous evening. ‘That’s a great sign for where my body’s at. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go.

‘All the hard work I’ve put in over the last 18 months, the dark places I’ve been, to come here to Pakistan and for us to take 20 wickets on that pitch is my proudest moment as an England cricketer.’

And Robinson spoke for the team when he insisted they could ‘win on any pitch, score 1,000 runs and take 20 wickets’. He added: ‘The belief we’ve got is unrivalled. I’ve never seen anything like it.’

Anderson, who has been around for rather longer, said: ‘The lads are saying that is the best away victory, but I can’t remember many better than that at home either to be honest.

‘On the morning of the game, we didn’t know if we were going to get 11 players on the field. But the lads just cracked on and there was no whinging. Rooty was off the field every half an hour puking up. To force a result on that wicket took an absolutely mammoth effort from everyone.’

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