London - England captain Alastair Cook won the toss and elected to bat in the
fourth and final Test against Pakistan at The Oval on Thursday.
opener made his decision despite cloudy overhead conditions and a
green-tinged pitch both offering the promise to assist pace bowlers.
were unchanged from the side that won the third Test by 141 runs at
Edgbaston last week, after deciding against giving a home debut to
leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
James Vince was passed fit to play
despite a finger injury he suffered at Edgbaston which prevented the
Hampshire batsman from continuing to field in the slips.
"We'll have a bat first," said Cook at the toss. "We had a long hard thought about it. The wickets here are good wickets.
always tempted with green grass to bowl first, and the first hour will
be hard work. But it will turn on days four and five, especially with
the sun coming out.
"It might reverse (swing) in days four or five. We've got to focus on today and getting through the first hour and session."
Turning to Rashid's omission, Cook added: "We wanted to keep the team's balance.
"It's tough for Adil Rashid. But if he gets a go he's got to make the most of it."
made two changes, with top-order batsman and occasional off-spinner
Iftikhar Ahmed given a Test debut in place of struggling opener Mohammad
Meanwhile left-arm quick Wahab Riaz was recalled in place
of fellow paceman Rahat Ali for his third match of the series after
missing out at Edgbaston.
Pakistan, whose four-man attack has been
struggling for fitness late in recent Tests, now had an extra bowling
option in Iftikhar.
"We were also planning to bat first, as
spinners come into play later on at The Oval," Pakistan captain
Misbah-ul-Haq told BBC Radio's Test Match Special.
"You never know in cricket, the first two hours are always important if you can get something out of the pitch.
"We make two changes -- Mohammad Hafeez and Rahat Ali are not playing, Iftikhar Ahmed and Wahab Riaz are in."
for England in in south London allied to India failing to win the final
two matches of their series in the West Indies would see Cook's men
climb to the top of the world Test rankings.
If England avoid defeat at The Oval, they will hold series titles against all the other nine Test-playing nations.
play began players, officials and spectators observed a minute's
silence in memory of the 72 people killed during an explosion at a
hospital in Quetta, south-west Pakistan, on Monday.
Both teams also wore black armbands as a mark of respect.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Alex Hales, Joe Root, James Vince, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, James Anderson
Pakistan: Sami Aslam, Azhar Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wkt), Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Sohail Khan
Umpires: Bruce Oxenford (AUS), Marais Erasmus (RSA)
TV umpire: Joel Wilson (WIS)
Match referee: Richie Richardson (WIS)