England have included legspinner Adil Rashid in the squad for the second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford, following an assessment that the pitch is likely to spin significantly.
The pitch has been baked hard in unusually warm Manchester sunshine and is normally fast and bouncy in any case, with plenty of help for the slow bowlers. In response, the England selectors have released Jake Ball and Steven Finn from the squad. The pair took just one wicket between them in the 75-run defeat at Lord's.
It also means James Anderson and all-rounder Ben Stokes are set to return to the side after injury, meaning England will be left to choose whether to play two spinners and three seamers, or drop a batsman and play Stokes to offer a six-man attack.
The latter option may provide a bowler too many and a batsman too few, the latter issue being a concern after the side was dismissed for 272 and 207 at Lord's. Chris Woakes is undroppable after taking 11 wickets in the first Test and Stuart Broad is currently the fourth-ranked bowler in the world, so that leaves the other option of choosing between Rashid and Moeen Ali. Moeen failed twice with the bat at Lord's - the second to a wild slog - and with just one left-hander in the top six, Rashid may have more success turning the ball away from the right-handers. He is also a capable batsman with several first-class centuries to his name.
If he does play, Yorkshireman Rashid will be playing his first home Test and may do well to recall the success other slow bowlers have had at Old Trafford, from Jim Laker's 19 wickets in the 1956 Ashes Test to Shane Warne's famous delivery to Mike Gatting in 1993. In more recent years, Monty Panesar has found the pace and bounce in the pitch ideally suited to his style of left-arm spin bowling. Now back playing county cricket after a number of personal issues stalled his career, Panesar may be back this winter, but in the meantime Rashid has his big chance.
Fans booking corporate hospitality for the final test of the series at the Kia Oval may be more excited if England win at Old Trafford, as this would set up the rest of the series wonderfully well.
England's recent record in Manchester has certainly been an outstanding one. They have gone nine Tests unbeaten at the venue since Pakistan were the last team to win there in 2001. Teams from the subcontinent in particular have suffered on a pitch with far more pace and bounce than they are used to; Pakistan lost by an innings in three days in 2006, as did Bangladesh in 2010 and India two years ago. Sri Lanka's sole Test on the ground, in 2002, saw England win by ten wickets.
In addition, the West Indies were beaten by seven wickets in 2004, New Zealand were defeated by six wickets in 2008 and Australia were one wicket away from defeat in the epic Test of 2005. Only in 2013, when the Aussies had the better of a drawn match, were England outplayed.
However, with Yasir Shah now ranked the number one bowler in the world, the tourists will be confident that their visit will turn out more like 2001 than 2006.
By Alex Brundell