Mark Wood returns to England playing XI for Multan Test

England have made one change for the second Test, which starts in Multan tomorrow (Dec 9), as Mark Wood returns to the playing squad to lead the pace battery.

He is included in the final XI in place of Liam Livingstone, who sustained a knee injury on day two in Rawalpindi – he has now returned to the UK for rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, they decided against inclusion of Ben Foakes – the main wicketkeeper who excels with bat as well – although he has fully recovered from a viral infection which affected him before the Rawalpindi Test.

It means Ollie Pope will continue keeping the gloves. “The communication to Ben [Foakes] was that the real positive for him to take out of this selection is that it’s just for this Test match,” said Stokes on Thursday. “

“Foakes still is the No 1 gloveman in England and I’ll still keep saying it, that he’s the best keeper in the world. It must sound a bit silly to not be picking him, but you’ve got to look at the conditions we face out here. Pakistan is a very hard place to come and bowl.”

About Mark Wood, the England captain said, “Adding Mark Wood into the side gives us the best opportunity to take 20 wickets. That’s what we came here to do, we came here to try and win games of cricket, not be concerned, especially going into this game with a 1-0 lead.”

With Pope set to continue batting at No.3, Stokes revealed he has also spoken to opening batter Ben Duckett – another part-time keeper – about the prospect of lightening Pope’s load during the match. While this does not necessarily mean the gloves will be passed around, it is a bit of insurance off the back of conversations with Pope about his workload during the first Test. He was on the field for 292 of the 388.3 overs of the match.

Wood, meanwhile, will earn his first Test cap since sustaining an elbow injury on the tour of the Caribbean in March. He missed the whole of the English season after undergoing two bouts of surgery, and though he returned to international duty on the T20 tour of Pakistan and went on to play an integral role in England’s T20 World Cup win in Australia, a subsequent hip issue ruled him out of the semi-final and final.

Wood returned to England to recover from that injury at home but, after missing the Test squad’s training camp in Abu Dhabi, he was deemed unavailable for selection for the first Test given how little he had bowled up to that point. He also felt unwell ahead of the Test though his illness was unrelated to the virus affecting the rest of the group.

Wood offers a point of difference with his extreme pace, showcased during the World Cup where he bowled the most deliveries (31) above 150kph (93mph) and registered the fastest delivery of the tournament at 154.74kph (96.2mph).

Further complications for England’s preparations could come from the local conditions, with heavy winter smog expected to delay the 10am start time, as well as create potential health issues for the players. Videos from the ground sent to the team show visibility at less than 10 yards between 9am and 9.30am before eventually clearing at around 11am. England’s flight into Multan from Islamabad on Tuesday was delayed by three-and-a-half hours as a consequence.

Multan’s air quality index was rated as “unhealthy” on Thursday, with a level of micro-particles 18.5 times higher than the guideline set by the World Health Organisation. Local advice is to wear masks outside and avoid outdoor exercise, which will become a problem from Thursday onwards, when England train for the first time at the Multan Cricket Stadium.

Stokes said he was not worried about the smog, and went as far as to say he does not expect the heavier air to affect how much work the team will be able to get through in the field.

“The pitch is dry and seems a lot muggier here than it was in Islamabad. I think square, it’s quite a big, hard, dry square. Looking at that you might see reverse swing coming into a Test match a lot earlier than it did.”


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