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August 4, 2020

England Test Series: Misbah feels top-order will hold the key

Sports

August 4, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan head coach Misbahul Haq confirmed on Monday they were contemplating playing two spinners in the first Test against England.

In a virtual media talk from Manchester, Misbah agreed with ‘The News’ that playing two spinners at a ground that has already hosted two back-to-back Tests was a possibility. “Yes, we are also thinking on these lines. Two spinners on a square that has shown wear and tear could be an ideal scenario. Apart from that, the weather is also warm. But first we have to look at the pitch,” the head coach, who is also the chief selector, said.

Besides experienced leg-spinner Yasir Shah, Pakistan also have wrist spinner Shadab Khan in the squad. Misbah said that the top-order held the key in the series. “Both countries have ideal pace attacks. England have an experienced pace attack while Pakistan have a new but a very potent one. On top of that we have very effective support in the shape of spin bowling,” he said.

“In such circumstances, it is the top-order that holds the key. Shan Masood and Abid Ali performed well in the past series and hopefully along with Azhar Ali they will live up to the challenge.

“England’s top-order has weaknesses and we hope that our bowlers will exploit them,” he added. Misbah has set his batsmen a target of over 300 in the first innings, which he believes will be enough to put pressure on the opponents.

“I have to admit we are not playing on our favourite English venues — Lord’s or The Oval — yet I feel the warm weather and suitable conditions have made Manchester and Southampton very favourable venues for us.

“We have seen the West Indies playing England here. Surprisingly, the pitch was offering help to the spinners and that is what we are looking for in the series,” he said. Misbah, however, was wary of Pakistan players’ long layoff. “The problem of not having played any real competitive cricket for six months will be there but once the boys enter the field, I am hopeful they will take little time in adjusting,” he said. “Pakistan players are hungry to show their promise and hopefully they will be up to the mark in no time.

“We have practised hard all these weeks. Younis Khan has worked hard with the batsmen and now they are ready to perform. We started from zero and have now entered a real competitive mode,” said the head coach.

“We are lucky to get some favours in terms of weather and conditions but we have to play well every day to win. We have to play exceptional cricket to win,” he said.

He said like Babar Azam, all batsmen would have to tackle challenges. “One good thing about Babar is that he always accepts challenges and tries to take the attack back to the bowlers. I want Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali to show the same guts,” he added.

Misbah did not rule out Sohail Khan’s inclusion in the playing XI but said that decision would be made purely on the requirements rather than on the form of a player. “Sohail is in tremendous form. He can be a very good option but it all depends on what we require. If the conditions suit slow bowlers, we may not need him,” he said.

According to the Covid-19 stipulations, Pakistan have to announce a 16-member probable squad for the first Test on Tuesday (today). The Test begins at Old Trafford on Wednesday (tomorrow).