SOUTHAMPTON-Former England captain Michael Vaughan predicted the hosts will sweep the three-test series against Pakistan despite the absence of talismanic all-rounder Ben Stokes for the last two matches. 

Stokes was part of the England team which pulled off a thrilling three-wicket victory in the series opener at Old Trafford but is now missing for family reasons. “He plays a big, big role in that dressing room,” Vaughan wrote in a blog, although he had no doubts about the depth in the England squad. “Even though Ben Stokes is out I think England will be too strong. England will win the series 3-0, that’s my prediction.” 

The Pakistan team led by Azhar Ali dominated much of the opening test in Manchester but Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler launched a superb counter-attack to power the hosts to an unlikely victory. “Azhar Ali (is) a young captain in terms of test matches but an experienced player in terms of test matches that he’s played. I think that was his chance to win a game overseas for the first time,” Vaughan said of the 35-year-old. 

He also felt England might rest veteran quick James Anderson in the second test beginning on Thursday. “I’d be surprised if he plays back-to-back games, so I think he will be rested. Maybe Sam Curran will come in for him or Mark Wood,” he added. “Zak Crawley will probably come in for Ben Stokes.”