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Misbah delighted over Malik’s return, warns of spin strengths

ABU DHABI: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq on Thursday expressed his delight over Shoaib Malik’s return to the Test squad and warned England of Pakistan’s strength in the spin department after the all-rounder’s return.

Misbah complimented Shoaib Malik, who has earned a late Pakistan recall after excelling in this month’s one-day series in Zimbabwe.

Malik, 33, was unbeaten in two of three innings in Africa, scoring 161 runs, while he has averaged 100 in 11 one-day internationals this year. His last test appearance was in 2010.

“It’s pretty clear he’s really been playing well,” said Misbah, adding Malik’s bowling was also decisive in his recall.

“England have four or five left-handers in their line-up (so) we thought about another option of off-spin — In this heat you need another bowler.”

Misbah also termed the fast-rising leg spinner Yasir Shah a “threat to every team” ahead of their three-Test series.

Pakistan hope Shah and slow left armer Zulfiqar Babar will be able to match the expolits of Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman who shared 43 wickets between them in a 3-0 rout of England in 2012.

Asked whether Shah would be an equal threat in the absence of Ajmal, who is not selected for the series due to lack of form after remodelling his action, Misbah said: “The way he’s bowling he’s a threat to every team.

“Obviously England know that and he too is aware of it. But it’s not just him but all our bowlers have to play their roles and the batsmen must score consistently well.”

Shah has been leading Pakistan’s spin attack in Ajmal’s abscence, taking 24 wickets in Pakistan’s last series in Sri Lanka and climbing to number three in the Test rankings.

Misbah praised his spinner but hoped his fast bowlers will also contribute.

“Yasir has been outstanding in recent times and so has been Babar. But it’s not just them but we expect the fast bowling department also to play their roles by taking wickets with the new ball, especially in Abu Dhabi,” added the skipper, 41.

Unlike England counterpart Cook, Misbah said he already knew his first test line-up, although he offered few clues as to which of the 16-man squad would be in the side.

The Moeen Ali threat

The Pakistan captain also identified England all-rounder Moeen Ali as a major danger to his team’s hopes of winning the three-test series starting next week in the United Arab Emirates.

Ali is vying with Alex Hales to open England’s batting alongside skipper Alastair Cook, but it has been with the ball that the sometime off-spinner has shone in warm-up matches.

“We know we have to give respect and do our basics right and deal with him,” Misbah, 41, told a news conference at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Cricket Stadium, which will stage the first test from Oct. 13.

Ali scored 22 runs in opening against Pakistan A in Sharjah earlier this week, but then bowled 3-41 as the match was drawn.

In a repeat encounter beginning Thursday, Ali was again handy with the ball, returning 1-44 in 17 overs as Pakistan A reached 192-9.

“Ali is really doing well for England; for the last year and a half he’s really been performing,” said Misbah.

More than half of Pakistan’s test squad, along with the coaching staff, only arrived in the UAE on Wednesday from Zimbabwe.

“We’ve got time and can really prepare ourselves in the next three to four days,” said Misbah.

The team will play a two-day practice match starting Friday, Pakistan’s sole warm-up game. Their last test was a 10-wicket win in Sri Lanka in mid-July to clinch that series 2-1.

The other two tests take place in Dubai (Oct. 22-26) and Sharjah (Nov. 1-5).

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