England v Pakistan Tests
England's middle-order is 'fragile': Riaz
The fiery paceman is set to form a potent bowling combination with sensation Mohammad Amir for Pakistan's Test series against England
11 July 2016, 04:40 PM AEST
Pakistan fast bowler Wahab Riaz has labelled England’s batting order “fragile” and believes his side has the bowling arsenal capable of dismantling their opponents on their home turf.
Wahab, who famously faced off with Shane Watson in a fiery duel at Adelaide Oval in the 2015 World Cup quarter-final, is set to lead an exciting Pakistan bowling attack featuring the likes of fellow left-arm quick Mohammad Amir and leg-spinner Yasir Shah.
England have recalled 15-Test batsman Gary Ballance to play his first Test since losing his place during last year’s Ashes and he is likely to slot in at No.5 with James Vince - who managed just 54 runs in his first four Test innings in the Sri Lanka series - and Joe Root to move up the order.
And Wahab believes if Root and captain Alastair Cook fail to fire in the series, England’s batsmen will struggle to contend with Pakistan’s attack.
"We know that England is struggling with their middle order,” the 31-year-old said. “Joe Root is one of their best players and he has to take the responsibility, so that's why he is at No.3.
"But I think the other batting is fragile. If you get Cook and Root quickly, you can really put pressure on them, but you can't take things easy against them."
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In the two sides’ last encounter in the longest format, a three-Test series in the United Arab Emirates, Cook and Root led England’s run-scorers but couldn’t prevent a 2-0 series defeat as the rest of their batting line-up struggled.
Root passed 50 three times in the first two Tests of that series, but fell for scores of four and six in the third, and Wahab says Pakistan have a strategy in place to counter the world’s fourth-ranked Test batsman.
“After the first Test in Abu Dhabi we worked out what he lacks and where he scores runs, so we made a plan of how to bowl to him,” Wahab told the Daily Mail.
“Over here, the wickets will be much more even. We have made plans. It’s just how we execute them.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan believes Pakistan’s bowlers have the ability to cause some headaches for England’s top-order this summer.
“They are aggressive, attacking and possess a natural awareness of the game situation,” he wrote in a column for The Telegraph.
“Pakistan bowl balls that as a batsman you just cannot prepare for. They surprise you. So what you have to do is ensure your alignment at the wicket is just right.”
“Against quite a few attacks you can get away with a false technique but not Pakistan. You will not survive if your technique is slightly off.”
On Pakistan’s infamous tour of England in 2010, which was overshadowed by the spot-fixing scandal involving Amir, Wahab took 5-63 on Test debut at the Oval, claiming the scalps of then-captain Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott.
And having been in the United Kingdom since May to play for Essex in England’s domestic Twenty20 competition, the hostile quick will look to impart some of his local knowledge on the younger bowlers.
“If it’s cloudy weather, the ball starts to swing more,” Wahab explained. “If it’s sunny, you have to be more consistent and bowl into the stumps.
“I love to take responsibility. We’re not a very experienced attack, but we all have the ability to win a Test match.
“Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah — they can all win you a game.”
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Amir is set to return to scene of his spot-fixing crime on Thursday at Lord’s, where he deliberately bowled no-balls in the 2010 Test against England, earning himself a jail term and a five-year ban from the ICC.
“We are very happy to have him back,” Wahab said. “He’s a dangerous bowler for any opponent.
“Everyone’s behind him — all the other 16 members of the squad. He’s a part of our family, he’s a part of Pakistan, he’s represented our country — so we are all behind him.
“We will support him and we really want him to do well.”