Rawalpindi: Several England players, including captain Ben Stokes, are feeling unwell on the eve of the team’s first Test in Pakistan in 17 years.
Only five England players — Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope and Joe Root — turned up for training at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. The rest of the squad members stayed at the team hotel.
Team spokesman Danny Reuben didn’t elaborate on the nature of the illnesses or give the exact number of affected England players. But he said in a statement that the unwell players “have been advised to stay at the hotel to rest up.”
Trophy unveiling postponed
In the absence of Stokes, the Pakistan Cricket Board had to postpone the trophy unveiling of the series by a day and the ceremony will now be held on Thursday ahead of the toss for the first Test.
England’s first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years will also be the first chance to see how their ‘Bazball’ brand of cricket fares away from home, and they signalled their attacking intent by picking Liam Livingstone for the opening match in Rawalpindi.
Coach Brendon McCullum and captain Stokes have championed England’s aggressive, high-risk high-reward style and it is unlikely they will take a more conservative approach in the three-Test tour.
Veteran pace bowler James Anderson said England’s only thought was winning.
“We’ve got a captain and coach that don’t want draws. We’re not playing for draws,” Anderson told BBC Sport.
Six wins in their last seven matches at home vindicate England’s new approach but fans are keen to see if it can work just as well abroad.
The tourists have made a bold decision by selecting batting all-rounder Livingstone, a highly sought-after Twenty20 player, to make his test debut despite not having played red-ball cricket this year.
Anderson was part of the England team which toured Pakistan in 2005, though he played only the one-day leg of that series.
Security concerns kept England away from Pakistan for the next 17 years until they arrived in September to play seven T20s on the first leg of their tour.
Anderson felt his experience from that 2005 tour would count for little and said England would have to adapt quickly to conditions in Rawalpindi, Multan and Karachi.
“Seventeen years is a long time,” the 40-year-old said.
“It’s a completely different team we’re playing against, completely different conditions.
“It’s about adapting when we get out there. We talk a little bit about the opposition but mainly concentrate on what we do well — that’s what we did in the summer.”
Ben Duckett will open the batting with Zak Crawley, while Joe Root is expected to share Jack Leach’s spin burden along with Livingstone.
Hosts Pakistan will hope 19-year-old Naseem Shah can soften the blow of pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi’s absence.
“When your best bowler gets injured, it makes a big difference,” Naseem told reporters.
“So we have to take that responsibility and make good use of the new ball.”