It feels like England’s batting order has been talk of the town since the beginning of time. But when the chips were down Joe Root’s faith in some wily all-rounders proved the difference.
A half-fit Ben Stokes and an inspired knock from Chris Woakes helped claw victory from the jaws of defeat in their first Test victory over Pakistan at Old Trafford.
But at Evens, can England see the job through at the Ageas Bowl and topple the Men in Green?
How to fill a Ben Stokes-shaped hole?
The super-hero-like all-rounder has produced some historic moments in England colours, and was on hand to take two crucial wickets that swung the momentum the hosts’ way.
But already nursing an injury, Stokes will not play in the final two Tests as Root plots a way of masterminding victory without him.
One man who’d usually be in the frame is Sam Curran. He’s deputised ably for Stokes in the past, but unless James Anderson is omitted, it’s a batsman needed.
The answer could be bringing Zak Crawley into the batting order. The Kent batsman played in the first two Tests against the West Indies chalking up an impressive 76 runs in the first Test second innings.
Pace bowlers key in Southampton match
A redeeming feature from England’s meeting with West Indies at this same venue last month was the role of the pace attack.
This will be music to the ears of Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, who at their best form a formidable trio.
But Pakistan have the new kid on the block in Naseem Shah. He took two wickets in the first Test, including the England skipper Root and a slick surface in Southampton could see the 19-year-old become a hero.
He’ll be supported by the accurate Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Shah Afridi in the tourists attack.
This is a must win for the visitors and Azhar Ali’s men are 7/2 to triumph and keep their hopes of a Series victory alive.
But England are becoming very accustomed to the Ageas Bowl and these home comforts could prove vital. As mentioned, they’re Evens to close out a win and make it 2-0 in the series.
The draw at 7/4 would keep this one finely balanced, while in the Series betting England are a short 1/7 for glory. Pakistan are at 10/1 but that could all change if they can muster a big performance this week.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.