Ollie Pope will remain as England’s wicketkeeper for the second Test against Pakistan that starts in Multan on Friday despite Ben Foakes returning to full fitness after a sickness bug.
Announcing his team 24 hours before the toss, Ben Stokes confirmed one change to the side that claimed a 1-0 series lead in Rawalpindi, with the injured Liam Livingstone replaced by an extra fast bowler in the fit-again Mark Wood.
It is another bold move by Stokes and the head coach, Brendon McCullum, as they continue to do things differently. Pope’s seventh first-class outing as a wicketkeeper – when he scored a first-innings century and effected seven dismissals during 251 overs in the field – convincing them he can continue.
The captain was at pains to state Foakes remains the team’s first-choice wicketkeeper. Instead, this is a one-off decision is designed to bolster wicket-taking options. “The one thing we did say to him was: don’t take this as anything going into the future,” Stokes said.
“He is still 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. Adding Mark Wood gives us the best opportunity to take 20 wickets. The big one is not to get conservative and be happy we’re 1-0 up, because we’ll certainly be trying to leave here leading 2-0.
“We want to keep continuing to press the way that we play and we felt bringing Woody in was the best opportunity for us to do that out here in this specific Test match.”
Pakistan (probable): Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (capt), Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Agha Salman, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Ali.
England (confirmed): Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ollie Pope (wkt), Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes (capt), Will Jacks, Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson, Jack Leach, Jimmy Anderson
Understandably, Pope was not flawless in the first Test, a late chance missed off the tailender Naseem Shah on the final evening could have proved costly. Though his fitness and energy in the field was impressive, his first innings 108 from 104 balls came before keeping wicket.
For the 32-year-old Wood it represents a first Test appearance since he suffered an elbow injury during the Caribbean tour in March and missed the entire English summer after surgery. A hip issue curtailed his T20 World Cup campaign but his speeds were unaffected since that comeback in Australia.
Stokes said: “Having someone in your squad who can bowl 150kmh is a massive bonus for any team around the world, especially out here with Pakistan being a very hard place to win. It’s a bit of a different story to having three low-80mph bowlers.”
England’s bid to take a 2-0 lead and not play for the draw may be tested by conditions, with early morning fog and sunset likely to curtail the playing hours at either ends of the day.
“The pitch is dry and it seems a lot more muggier here than [Rawalpindi],” Stokes said. “It’s quite a big, hard, dry square. Looking at that, you might see reverse swing coming into the Test match a lot earlier than it did previously.
Poor air quality may also prove taxing in the field but when asked if he was concerned by the local pollution, Stokes gave a simple answer: “No.” He also said the opener Ben Duckett, another with wicket-keeping experience, may take over the gloves if Pope’s workload becomes too taxing.
Meanwhile, four arrests have been made by the Pakistan police after shooting between rival gangs was heard around 1km from the tourist’s team hotel on Thursday morning. No one was injured. England’s security plans remain unaffected.