LONDON: Pakistan approach the Lord’s Test with quiet confidence, mindful of the challenge ahead but emboldened by strong outings in warm-ups against Somerset and Sussex. What happens next in an England series, though, has never been easy to predict.
Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s new South African coach, said: “We’ve prepared exceptionally well and left no stone unturned. It’s a massive challenge and we’re really looking forward to it. Everybody knows their role, exactly where they fit in, and we now need to turn that preparation into performance.
“The skill levels of the players in batting and bowling are exceptional, and a lot of our work has been on our fielding. We’ve also tried to give structure to the whole set up. We needed to know where our players are in their training, fitness levels and rehabilitation programmes. Structure is an important part of a modern cricket set up.”
A sense of anticipation greets this upcoming series that pits the world’s third and fourth ranked sides against each other. Pakistan had second place in their sights when Inzamam-ul-Haq’s team toured in 2006 but they returned home in shambles, forfeiting the final Test at The Oval.
The team management and senior players are determined that there is no repetition of that controversy or the unfortunate events of 2010 that resulted in bans for Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif, and Mohammad Amir.
Of the three, only Mohammad Amir has managed to re-establish his international career, and his impressive form in the match against Somerset will give Pakistan confidence for the challenges ahead.
Pakistan’s middle-order looks settled and experienced, with Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq once again providing the backbone. While Younis hopes to continue for a few years more, Misbah is taking one series at a time. Meanwhile, Asad Shafiq continues to blossom.
But the series may be won and lost by the performance of the top order, a traditional weakness for Pakistan.
The batsmen are working on adapting to English conditions with the aid of the proven strategies of playing the swinging ball later with soft hands. Openers Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood are yet to to find full form, although Azhar Ali has settled in encouragingly at number three.
As ever, Pakistan’s bowling remains strong, except that with both Amir and Yasir Shah back the attack begins to have a world class look about it. The tussle for selection is between the remaining seamers, with two from Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan and Imran Khan in the frame.
“England’s main threat is the swinging ball, and that’s something we really need to guard against,” added Arthur.
“We’ve done a lot of preparation on batting in conditions outside Asia. I think the players are ready and we’ve shown that in the practice games. We want to be ultra-disciplined. We want to be patient. The longer we can remain patient the greater chance we have of success.
“We want to embrace our supporters and develop a style that they identify with. Our whole mantra, what we stand for, our brand is that we want to perform on and off the field.”
Pakistan last won a series in England in 1996, which places the odds in England’s favour.
Alastair Cook’s team are on the back of a sound drubbing of an inexperienced Sri Lanka team, and while that series failed to capture the public’s imagination, Pakistan’s arrival, laced with proven talent and a history of controversy, promises greater fascination in the second half of this English summer.
Courtesy : Dawn News