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Exclusive: Ian Bell on Pakistan v England

I’ve spent the last month with the England Lions and it’s been really enjoyable to have an opportunity to have a camp. 

In modern day cricket, there’s so much game time, but it’s been great to have an opportunity to spend three or four weeks together, working on Test match cricket skills and being around the likes of Jofra Archer, who’s still doing his rehab, and some of the England Test team, and then having the game at the end of that.

With Jofra, you’re watching him bowl and it’s hard not to get too excited when you see it, but we’re trying to play it down as much as possible because he’s not quite ready yet, but he’s not far away.

It was good to see and get to know the next-in-line England Test match players and then to get involved with the England boys in their preparation for Pakistan.

The standard was very high and there are a number of guys who could feature in the next 12 months, but the two standouts from a batting perspective were Haseeb Hameed, who got a nice hundred against England, and Tom Haines from Sussex, who is one to keep an eye on. 

He plays a style of cricket that I’m assuming Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum like, he’s quite an attacking left-handed opener that goes at the ball quite hard.

We go on tour as a group as England A to Sri Lanka soon, so hopefully everything we’ve gone through over the last month we’ll be able to put into action against a strong Sri Lanka A side.

Fascinating series in store

A bug has worked its way through the England camp in Pakistan, and these things can happen when you go to the subcontinent, adjusting to new surroundings, but I’m sure everyone will be fine, taking as many precautions as possible with all the right people around them, and they’ll be good to go. 

Joe Root joked about Marcus Trescothick and Rob Key opening the batting, so hopefully for England’s sake I don’t get the call!

It’s the first Test match England have played in Pakistan for 17 years and everyone over there is so excited to see them over there again.

I was over there last time England played, and Pakistan is a cricket-loving country so when you’re there you’re treated incredibly well. 

From a cricket point of view, they were amazing wickets to bat on, and I think we’ll see quite attritional cricket, but if you get in as a batter you can go quite big. 

It’ll be fascinating to see how England go about it and if they can take the same aggressive approach as they do at home, as you normally need to do a lot of hard work in that part of the world before the game speeds up.

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I thought the selection was quite interesting, particularly the bowling. Mark Wood has joined them now but he’s probably not 100%. Jamie Overton’s there so the bowling attack is a little bit samey, with Overton, James Anderson and Ollie Robinson. 

They’ll want Wood fit and firing because on these pitches you need something a little bit different. One of my memories of playing there was how quick Shoaib Akhtar bowled, but Pakistan will have a lot of bowlers who are pretty quick through the air. 

From Pakistan, I’m expecting them to be hard to beat at home. I think we saw that in the series with Australia, even though they lost the series, a lot of the matches went down to the wire and could have gone either way.

I expect them to score a good volume of runs and bat for a long time, and then it’ll be interesting to see how they try get their 20 wickets, especially with no Shaheen Afridi, who’s arguably their best bowler. I think they’ll try and slow England down a bit and play at their tempo, to see how patient England can be. 

It’ll be a fascinating to see who comes out on top, and I can’t wait for it.

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