Misbah ponders options as Pakistan gear up for England Tests
Like their counterparts, England who are facing a daunting task to choose a pace attack from a huge pool of in-form talent, Pakistan’s extended 20-man squad has also given a headache to head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, who is to trim the squad to 16 before start of Test series on Wednesday.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, Nasim Shah and Muhammad Abbas all may be an automatic choice, the form of Sohail Khan has also complicated the situation for Misbah.
And there is always a temptation to go with two spinners considering the slow track at Old Trafford in Manchester having three spinners at disposal i.e. Yasir Shah, Kashif Bhatti and Shadab Khan.
Yasir is the lead spinner in Tests for Pakistan but Shadab has also promising potential and especially he has a batting advantage as well that Pakistan may go after in the absence of any inform regular all-rounder in the squad. Fahim Ashraf is also there to claim the role of an all-rounder but Shadab may have an edge over him.
But one thing is evident that Pakistan’s bowling attack is less experienced as compared to their counterparts England who also have better all-rounders at their disposal.
Pakistan’s batting woes yet again exposed during the practice matches and there is also a tough competition for creating a suitable combination.
Misbah also not ruled out playing two spinners in the first Test against England at Emirates Old Trafford.
"We will keep an eye on the pitch and the weather conditions, today and tomorrow, before taking a decision on whether to play two spinners or not," said Misbah. "It is a possibility and an encouraging sign for us. The pitch and weather conditions might be favouring us at the moment but you still have to execute your plans properly to win," he added.
“We started after three months from scratch, which has been good so far,” Misbah said while speaking through a video link on Monday. “The top-order's performance is crucial [to winning the match],” Misbah said, adding that the bowling side of both the teams was strong.
Pakistan have already spent more than a month in England, first at New Road in Worcester and then at Derbyshire's Incora County Ground prior to entering the Old Trafford bio-secure bubble over the weekend.
Despite the unusual nature of the tour, Misbah believes his players are well set for the three-match Test series. "Overall, I’m satisfied with the team’s preparations. We had to start from zero after being away from cricket for a period of three months [due to Covid-19]," he said.
"The team is in good shape and we are hopeful about putting up a good show in the upcoming series. When you play after a long gap there is bound to be some sort of nervousness but that is natural. As soon as the players step on the field, it will go away. The players are fresh and anxiously waiting for the series to begin."
The head coach added if a team was able to put up a score of over 300 runs on the board in the first innings, then it had 70% chances of winning the match. While noting that this was an opportunity for young bowlers to exhibit their skills, he said that the Pakistani bowlers lacked experience when compared to their counterparts.
Misbah said that Sohail Khan was bowling well, but a combination would be made based on the prevalent conditions. “We have to move forward and not think about ourselves only,” he said, adding that bowling coach Waqar Younis was in continuous contact with the players.
Pakistan are the second Test team, after West Indies, to tour England this summer. They will play three Tests, the first beginning on Wednesday, and three T20 Internationals in bio-secure venues in Manchester and Southampton.