alastair cook
Mohammad Amir's battle with Alastair Cook will be a good watch. Pictured: England's Alastair Cook celebrates reaching 10,000 test runs during the Second Test match against Sri Lanka at Emirates Durham ICG - 30/5/16Reuters

Stuart Broad vs Azhar Ali, James Anderson (for most of the Tests) vs Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir vs Alastair Cook, Wahab Riaz vs Joe Root -- these are some of the key matchups, which will be on show during the four-match Test series between England and Pakistan, starting Thursday.

Pakistan might have defeated England in the last two Test series that took shape between the two nations in the UAE, but it is a different matter altogether on English soil. Fast bowlers are going to get much more help, and the Pakistan batsmen will have to be on top of their game to score runs against Broad and Anderson's movement.

Misbah and Younis Khan are going to hold the key in the middle order, but the top order comprising of Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood have to see off the new ball, even if the latter's inexperience could be a problem while dealing with movement. Hence, Ali, who has shown great form, and will be a confident batsman as he scored two centuries in the practice matches, against Somerset and Sussex, might be even asked to open the batting.

Even if the Pakistan batsmen contribute with the bat, bowlers like Amir and Riaz will have to be sharp, and provide early inroads. Misbah will also look forward to the legspin wizardry of Yasir Shah. The trio will have to take wickets consistently if they are to challenge England in the series, or else they could suffer same fate as in 2010, when England defeated Pakistan 3-1. 

Unlike Pakistan, England do not have much problems in the opening slot, with Cook and Alex Hales set to open, and the latter was impressive in the last Test series against Sri Lanka, scoring 292 runs.

However, Pakistan will need to have to dismiss Cook early on, as he could prove to be a headache if he gets his eye in. Cook's last century came against Pakistan in 2015, and the England skipper will be keen to start with a bang in the first Test at Lord's, before taking it from there.

With quality batsmen like Root and Jonny Bairstow, who helped their team recover against Sri Lanka when the openers failed to provide a good start, to follow, England have a solid batting lineup, which can stand up to Amir and co.. Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, with their all-round skills, add depth in both the bowling and batting departments as well.

With England and Pakistan having some wonderful seamers, the top order of both teams could be the make or break as far as the series is concerned. 

Squads: Pakistan: Sami Aslam, Shan Masood, Mohammad Hafeez, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Iftikhar Ahmed, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Imran Khan

England (first Test):  Alastair Cook(c), Alex Hales, Gary Ballance, Joe Root, James Vince, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Jake Ball, Steven Finn, Toby Roland-Jones.

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