WTC: Stokes urges England to stay aggressive

England Test captain Ben Stokes has challenged his team to play without fear and put on a show against New Zealand at Headingley despite taking an unassailable 2-0 lead into the final match of the three-match series.

A new era for England in the longest format, spearheaded by the new skipper-coach duo of Stokes and Brendon McCullum, has got off to a flying start, with the hosts blasting to victory in the opening two Tests.

“We’ve obviously won the series but there are World Test Championship points to play for. We want to carry on with the way we’ve played,” Stokes told reporters on the eve of the third Test.

“I was pretty simple and clear in the dressing room. Let’s try and think like we’re in the entertainment business rather than the sporting business… there’s a reason why 20,000 people came out to watch us at Trent Bridge last week.

“So I set a challenge to the team to be even more fearless, positive and aggressive than last week.”

James Anderson, England record’s wicket-taker in Test cricket, has been ruled out due to an ankle problem, with Jamie Overton set to make his debut following his impressive start to the domestic season with Surrey.

Stokes said he was hopeful that Anderson can recover in time for the one-off Test against India at Edgbaston, which begins on July 1.

“It’s unfortunate for Jimmy, but we’ve got a massive Test against India coming up as well. I’m not too sure how serious it is to be honest. He’s just got a bit of a puffy ankle,” added the all-rounder.

“(Jamie) fills a different role from Jimmy, but to have someone in your back pocket who can bowl 90 miles an hour is big for us. That’s the only change this week.”

Stokes took over as captain after Joe Root’s resignation in April, which came on the heels of a series loss in the Caribbean and a disastrous Ashes tour of Australia.

The 31-year-old said his team hadn’t yet completed a turnaround and their character would truly be Tested only after tasting defeat.

“We’re still yet to have a bad result. When things don’t go well is when the message we are trying to get across becomes more important,” said Stokes.

Spinner Yasir returns in Pakistan squad for Sri Lanka Test tour

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah marks his return to the national men’s team as Pakistan on Wednesday announced an 18-member squad for next month’s two-match Test series against Sri Lanka.

Pakistan are set to tour Sri Lanka in July for two Tests series that will be part of the ICC World Test Championship 2021-23 cycle. Pakistan will play a three-day warm-up match between 11-13 July. The first Test will be played at Galle from 16 July, while the second Test will be staged at Colombo from 24 July.

The 36-year-old spinner was instrumental in Pakistan’s 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka on their last tour of the island in 2015, snaring 24 wickets at 19.33 before injuries pushed him to the sidelines. He last played a Test in August 2021.

Salman Ali Agha and Mohammad Nawaz are another addition to the squad.

In the upcoming 2022-23, Pakistan are set to host England and New Zealand for three and two Tests in a bumper home international season.

Chief selector Muhammad Wasim said in an official statement released by Pakistan Cricket Board, “We have selected this squad considering the conditions in Sri Lanka and have equipped the team with the best possible resources.

“Our spin department is boosted with the return of Yasir Shah, who proved himself as a match-winner in Sri Lanka on our last tour and Sajid Khan has made the way for him. The spin department also includes two spin all-rounders in Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha and left-arm orthodox Nauman Ali.”

“Salman Ali Agha has shown consistent performances with the bat in the past three seasons and he is a handy off-spin option,” said Wasim.

“Our team has recently put strong performances in Bangladesh and although results against Australia were not ideal, we displayed solid cricket and for that reason, we have retained the core to instil consistency and continuity and have trimmed the squad size following the relaxation in Covid-19-induced travel restrictions,” he added.

Squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood and Yasir Shah.


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