Pakistan’s strong record against England in the UAE remains intact, even though there is no longer a chance of them emulating the 2012 series by completing a 3-0 clean sweep. However, in the wake of England’s near-miss in the fading light in Abu Dhabi, where they came within 25 runs of a remarkable victory, Pakistan’s captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, says his team needs to take the visitors much more seriously for the remainder of the series.
Pakistan started the first Test with a major setback when their legspinner Yasir Shah was ruled out due to a back spasm. For the first four days, the pitch was cursed for its slowness and unresponsiveness but on day five the twist started when Pakistan collapsed swiftly to set England up for their race against time.
“Obviously that match is gone and there were some positives and some negatives,” Misbah said ahead of the second Test in Dubai. “At the end of the day it was important for us, in whatever situation we were, we had to save the match. I think this [Dubai] venue is better suited for spinners and more result-oriented. The team which plays spin well and have better spinners, they have a good chance.
“This is a very important Test for us,” he said, “so we are positive and have to improve our performance. We are looking forward to good cricket. We have to take them seriously and we already are. I think it maybe is different in perception for the viewers but I am saying this from the first day. They are a professional team and are very determined.
“They have learned from their previous mistakes in the past and are a totally different team and that is what we have seen [in Abu Dhabi]. So we have to lift our performance if we want to win.”
Misbah praised the lengths to which England went to stay in contention in the first Test, when the inexperienced nature of their batting line-up in particular might have played to Pakistan’s strengths, much as they had done in the last UAE series three years ago.
“I have already said that this is a young team and obviously being knocked out in 2012 they know they have a goal and are much more prepared than before,” he said. “We have to just get a breakthrough and we have to really work very hard to counter their plans on what they are doing. At the moment they have really shown some good resilience and they really played well in the first Test match.”
Pakistan’s record in Dubai is not quite as good as at Abu Dhabi, but formidable nonetheless. They have won four of their eight matches with two defeats and two draws, and spin, unsurprisingly, has been their decisive weapon. Pakistan has three spinners to call upon – the fit-again Shah, as well as the left-armer Zulfiqar Babar and the offspinner Bilal Asif, who has been called up as cover.
“I think it is a typical Dubai pitch it should suit us,” said Misbah. “But at the end of the day we have to play good cricket and that is the only way to do well in a game and win a game. As far as the look of the pitch, it is just what we want.”
Bilal, who was reported for a suspect action following the third ODI against Zimbabwe in Harare earlier this month, underwent testing in Chennai on October 19 but is available for selection because ICC protocol allows him to continue bowling until the result of his test is known. That is likely to take another couple of weeks.
“That is not an issue for us,” said Misbah, when asked if having a bowler with a suspect action was a concern. “If that had been an issue for us he would not be here. If he is here we are confident enough to pick him for the Test match. We are looking how we go in our combination, if he just settles in or if he is there in our combination, we will definitely pick him in the eleven.
“We think that he is [correct in his action], that is why we have been really supporting him and promoting him and picking him. He has just gone through the test. We think his action is okay and that is why he is here.”