England and Pakistan’s first Test at Lord’s is about second chances.
Most attention-grabbing of them is the return of Mohammad Amir for the tourists. He will be making a first Test-match appearance for six years after serving a ban for spot fixing.
Rather poetically, his restoration to the Pakistan side comes at the very ground where his deliberate no balls were exposed.
Rather predictably, Amir’s London comeback has raised moral questions in the cricketing community.
Some, like Kevin Pietersen, who was playing in that Lord’s Test six years ago, want him banned from the international game. Others, like Michael Atherton, believe he deserves another opportunity now his punishment has been served.
Understandably, it’s an issue that has taken much of the pre-match focus away from any on-field action.
By doing so, however, the supreme skill Amir displayed before his grave error in judgement is forgotten.
It was that skill that saw the left-armer rip through England’s batting lineup with six consecutive wickets in the first innings of that fateful 2010 Lord’s outing.
His talent hasn’t vanished while he has been away either and, as part of a fearsome Pakistan bowling attack, the 24-year-old stands to pose a serious challenge to the hosts’ batters.
Among the men he’ll face is Gary Ballance, himself receiving a factious second crack at Test cricket, albeit for far less contentious reasons.
Not since the second Test of last summer’s Ashes, also at Lord’s, has the Yorkshire batsman played for his country. By then his technique and ability had been scrutinised so ferociously it was amazing he didn’t crawl into a hole and disappear from the game altogether.
That he’s back, at number five this time, is testament to the one trait everyone agrees he has in droves; strength of character.
The technique is still the same, if tweaked a tad. There will be few better bowling units to test its durability on than a visiting attack containing Amir, Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah.
By the end of the game, Amir, Ballance or both will be on the road to redemption. However, their journeys couldn’t be more different.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.