Pakistan were, by far, the better of the two teams for a major part of the Old Trafford Test. Yet, they failed to capitalize on the early advantage and fell short of their hosts in the crucial sessions - witnessing the match tilting away from them, in the process. The duo of Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler took the Pakistan bowling battery from the scruff of its neck and battered them in a game-changing session on the final day - scripting a remarkable comeback to chase down what had begun to look like a gargantuan task.
The second Test between the two sides is now set to commence on August 13 at The Ageas Bowl in Southampton. England will be without their stalwart all-rounder Ben Stokes, who will miss the remainder of the series due to family reasons. The team management has added uncapped fast bowler Ollie Robinson to the squad for the Test.
Stokes' absence comes as a big setback for the hosts as they look to seal the deal in Southampton and climb atop the ICC World Test Championship points table. Although Stokes did not play a key role in the victory at Manchester, he did take a couple of quick wickets to rip through Pakistan's lower order. And, it's more of his presence and the aura that he brings to the field that England would dearly miss in the Southampton Tests.
The hosts are likely to make two changes to the squad with Sam Curran and Zak Crawley expected to get the nod. Crawley's re-induction will solidify the middle-order and Curran can provide that extra depth at the start of the tail. Moreover, as they did during the series against West Indies, England team management may rejig their pace bowling options given James Anderson and Jofra Archer have featured in back-to-back Tests. If the two premier pacers are rested, Mark Wood and Robbinson can come into the reckoning.
England's Probable XI: Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dominic Bess, Jofra Archer/Mark Wood, Stuart Broad
Pakistan, dismayed and dejected after the heartbreak at Old Trafford, would be raring to register a comeback in the series and take advantage of Stokes' absence. Azhar Ali, the Pakistan skipper, came under immense scrutiny after he failed to react appropriately when Pakistan had the upper hand in the 1st Test. England were down and out but Woakes and Buttler were allowed to collect pressure-free runs and they ultimately stole the game in a mere session.
There was a fair bit of talk when Pakistan decided to go with two leg-spinners in Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan in Manchester. It seemed to be a brilliant tactical move but the latter's impact with the Duke was minimal in the fourth and the most significant innings. They are, however, likely to persist with him given his decent returns with the bat in the 1st innings and the ever-growing calls to hand Fawad Alam an opportunity may have to wait further. The dilemma, though, will be the conditions on offer at Southampton and bolstering the pace attack instead of playing an extra spinner will not be a particularly bad choice given the weather forecast for the rest of the week.
Pakistan were bundled out cheaply in the 2nd innings when they were eyeing to bat England out of the game. While Shan Masood and Babar Azam shone with the bat in the first essay of the match, senior men like Azhar and Asad Shafiq were woeful and couldn't contribute anything of significance. The onus will pretty much be on these gun players to get their blades talking if Pakistan are to topple over the hosts and take the series into a finale.
Pakistan's Probable XI: Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali (c), Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shadab Khan/Fawad Alam, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Abbas.
The weather is expected to play spoilsport throughout the Test match with showers and thunderstorms forecasted in Southampton from August 13 to 17. Considerable time will be lost to rain delays but, as has been evident throughout the summer, thus far, four days are usually enough to extract a result out of a Test. This is the first time ever that Pakistan and England will lock horns in Southampton for a red-ball game and it promises to be an enthralling duel.