Compared to most other touring teams, Pakistan have been consistently successful against England in England over the last three decades. They drew their last two tours in 2016 and 2018, and have not lost a series home or away since 2010. Can they go further to beat England in England? We take a look at some of the key battles to look forward to in the Test series.
Shan Masood v James Anderson 15 Runs from 57 balls and dismissed six times
Opening in England is currently one of the toughest jobs in Test cricket, with an average of just 24.82 since 2018 - which is the third-lowest among all countries. However, if you dive a little deeper and look at the visiting team openers, that average dips further down to 17.67. One of the key factors in that is the enduring class of England's new-ball specialist, James Anderson, and Pakistan's opener Shan Masood has been a regular victim. He's been dismissed by Anderson six times from 57 deliveries so far in his career, and on four of those occasions, he's made a score of 2 or less. But he comes into this Test series with two centuries and one fifty in his last five innings, albeit in favourable batting conditions. If Pakistan hope to challenge England, Masood has to survive the Anderson burst and then build on his start, but can he find a way?
England batsmen v Shaheen Shah Afridi
England's batsmen have not had much experience of left-arm seam in recent home campaigns, with Mohammad Amir and Mitchell Starc claiming 11 wickets at 25 between them in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and conceding 275 runs from 559 deliveries in the process. However, in the winter just gone against New Zealand and South Africa, England lost 20 wickets at 26.55 to left-arm seam, with Dom Sibley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root and Jos Buttler all being dismissed in that manner twice. Sibley, Pope and Buttler average 22, 26 and 13 respectively while only Root has found a consistent means to combat the style, averaging 47.50. With Shaheen Shah Afridi playing a Test series in England for the first time, he could be a bowler who causes England problems.
Azhar Ali v Anderson and Broad
303 runs from 955 deliveries with 13 dismissals
Azhar Ali is another key batsman for Pakistan but has not done very well in English conditions. In 24 innings, he averages 29.68 with one century and just three fifties. And the cause of his struggles have been a pair of familiar opponents. Since his first tour in 2010, Ali has fallen seven times to Anderson and six times to Stuart Broad, and he hasn't managed to get on top of them in between dismissals either. He has scored 153 runs from 443 balls against Anderson while against Broad it is 150 runs from 512 balls. He needs to rectify that record if Pakistan are to score enough runs to challenge in the series.
Yasir Shah v England Batsmen
When Yasir Shah last toured England in 2016, he was instrumental in their two Test victories, claiming 15 wickets for 272 runs at Lord's and The Oval, compared to four wickets for 502 runs in their defeats at Old Trafford and Edgbaston. He missed the 2018 tour due to injury, and since start of 2019, he's managed just 10 wickets in five Tests. Shah will be key to Pakistan's success, especially as England have not faced many legspinners in the intervening years - just West Indies' Devendra Bishoo and Shah's own team-mate Shadab Khan. It wouldn't be a surprise if Pakistan played both Yasir and Shadab at some stage in this campaign.
Babar Azam v England
In terms of a statistical match-up, this contest is based on too small a sample size to make any definitive judgements - Babar's sole innings against England came in the Lord's victory in 2018, when his attractive 68 was ended by a broken wrist, courtesy of a Ben Stokes bouncer. However, since that day, his reputation has soared, and when in full flow there are few more attractive players in the world. You won't want to take your eyes off the action when he comes out to bat.