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Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed wants the side's quartet of senior players to help take the pressure off the rest of the team in the first Test against England at Lord's. For at least seven members of the tourists' side, Thursday's opening fixture of a two-Test series will be the first time they have played a a match at the 'home of cricket'. By contrast, Mohammad Amir -- whose career came to a shuddering halt after his involvement in a spot-fixing scandal, wicket-keeper Sarfraz and batsmen Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq have all played at the London headquarters of Marylebone Cricket Club. "Yes, the senior players in the team have to show responsibility," Sarfraz told reporters at Lord's on Wednesday. "We have to lead from the front, we have more responsibility to give a good platform so that the new players take it from there," he added. Pakistan come into this game on the back of a five-wicket win over Test debutants in Ireland, where the conditions were similar to those they could face at Lord's if confronted with a typical early-season English pitch offering seam movement and some overcast skies. "As a team we have more confidence because that was our first big match," said Sarfraz. "The way new players put up a good performance that helped us gain confidence." One of those new players was Test debutant Imam-ul-Haq. Some pundits attacked the 22-year-old left-hander's inclusion in the tour squad on nepotism grounds given Imam is the nephew of Pakistan selection chief and former Test batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq.
But Imam has answered his critics with three fifties to date this tour, including a match-clinching 74 not out on the last day against Ireland that rescued Pakistan from the depths of 14 for three. "I am very pleased the way he is playing, especially in the second innings (in Dublin)," said Sarfraz. "It's not easy for a youngster playing his first Test, it was a crucial knock of 74 runs and as a captain I am very confident he will continue performing well like that." Sarfraz said it was important Pakistan treated the match like any other and did not play the likes of England stalwarts Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad and James Anderson on their reputations. "They (England) have experienced players but I have told my players not to get worried about that," he explained. "Take it as a domestic match, the way you have got into the team after performing well in domestic matches, play without fear and play your best game. "The worse will be that we lose this match, but this is a young team, seven of our players will be playing at Lord's for the first time, so that in itself an honour.
"If these youngsters do well here and gain confidence then it will be good for their future and for the Pakistan team." Sarfraz, a key member of the Pakistan side that drew 2-2 in a four-Test series in England two years ago, accepted the hosts would be tough to beat on their own soil. But he also said there was an opportunity for Pakistan given England failed to win any of their seven most recent Tests, in Australia and New Zealand. "If you see England's last four months they are not good for them," said Sarfraz. "They lost the Ashes in Australia and did not have a good time in New Zealand. I think as captain I see England, at the moment, being less confident as a team so as a team we will try to take advantage and try to perform well."
Squads - England: Joe Root (c), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, James Anderson, Dominic Bess Pakistan:Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Rahat Ali, Sami Aslam, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali, Usman Salahuddin, Hasan Ali