Alastair Cook is urging England to move on from a “messy affair” at Lord’s, as they seek to level the Investec series.
England were well short of their best at the home of cricket, where the controversial decision to omit James Anderson was arguably symptomatic of a false start against Pakistan.
Anderson, like Ben Stokes, is back from injury at Old Trafford – and Cook is calling on the collective to show their true colours before it is too late.
Defeat here would mean England can no longer win the series, and therefore achieve their summer ambition of holding the full set of bilateral Test trophies.
Cook cannot entertain those thoughts, on the occasion of his 50th Test as captain, and simply wants to draw a line under Lord’s as soon as possible.
There, England had to sit and suffer in the dressing room while Misbah-ul-Haq orchestrated Pakistan’s memorable salute and press-up celebrations – homage to their bonding experience at a pre-tour army boot camp near Karachi.
The hosts have pared an initial squad of 14 down to 12, from which Adil Rashid is likely to be the eventual absentee after Cook described Moeen Ali as England’s “first-choice spinner for this game”.
That option will cause significantly fewer ripples than the marginal decision, based on a mixture of medical advice and caution, to give Anderson an extra week – and match practice with Lancashire – before returning from a stress fracture of his shoulder in time for his home Test.
Whatever those rights and wrongs, England collectively under-performed not with ball but bat – especially against leg-spinner Yasir Shah – in the first Test.
“The 11 players were disappointed ... we didn’t do ourselves justice,” said Cook. “We’ve got a chance to do that now.”
Reflecting both on defeat and last week’s selection process, the captain added: “It’s happened. It was a slightly messy affair – no one intended it to be like that – and we’ve got to move on and play better cricket.”
It may never be possible to conclude vindication or otherwise for Anderson’s late start to the campaign – reportedly against the instincts of captain, player and coach Trevor Bayliss.
“The selectors didn’t think he was fit enough – the medical reports were 50/50,” said Cook.
“So he was left out of the squad. They felt he was a week away from match fitness, and he’s ready here.”
Cook’s counterpart Misbah, who made a century in his first innings at the home of cricket last week, is ready to withstand England’s attempt to fight back.
He anticipates the hosts, reinforced by the returns of Anderson and Stokes from injury, may be harder nuts to crack in the north.
“We don’t disrespect the opposition – they’re a fine team and we know their strengths,” said the veteran Pakistan captain.
“This is a bigger challenge for us, in the coming game.”