Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq spins England a line on Sharjah pitch

Published: Saturday 31st October 2015 by The News Editor

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Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq may be double-bluffing England with his assertion that Sharjah will be no place for three spinners in the final Test.

England are grappling with just that conundrum as they try to earn a 1-1 series draw in a must-win match for them.

Misbah offered no clear guidance to the tourists at his captain’s press conference when he hinted Pakistan have been dissuaded from picking an extra spinner themselves – by the evidence of their own eyes.

They have the option of replacing seamer Imran Khan, who split the webbing on his bowling hand in practice, with uncapped Bilal Asif – the off-spinner cleared of a suspect action only 24 hours previously by International Cricket Council testing.

Yet Misbah, doubtless aware England too must make a similar selection call, publicly veered away from the notion of picking just one seamer.

As well as being one up with one to play, of course, Pakistan’s position of strength stems further from the knowledge their two spinners – Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar – have been more effective than England’s in the first two Tests.

Misbah implied the Sharjah surface is a step into the unknown for both sides.

“They have changed the upper layer of the pitch, so we don’t know too much about it,” he said.

“Let’s hope it spins.

“We have been thinking about it, but the pitch doesn’t look like that sort of a turner where you can go with three spinners.

“That’s our thinking at the moment.”

Bilal appears to be a long-term, rather than immediate, option – after proving his arm is sufficiently straight in delivery.

“We are happy about that, because we don’t have any other [frontline Test class] off-spinner in Pakistan,” said Misbah.

“He took five [one-day international] wickets in Zimbabwe, so we’re thinking we’ve got a spinner we can rely on and work with in the future.

“He is young and can bowl and bat a bit. That could really help Pakistan cricket.”

Misbah has been able to confirm “key batsman” Azhar Ali, finally available after missing the series so far with an infected foot and then after the death of his mother-in-law, will return in Pakistan’s top three.

No matter how England fare over the next five days, Misbah insists they are currently better equipped for Test cricket in the desert than Australia were on the way to series defeat here a year ago.

“I think you can clearly say they are better side than the Australians in these sorts of conditions,” he said.

“You have to give credit to England – the way they are applying themseleves.”

The 41-year-old suggested before the start of this series that it may be his last.

That could still be the case, but the inscrutable Misbah will be announcing nothing just yet.

“There is plenty of time before the next series, so I’m taking more time to make a decision – and will give it some thought,” he said.

“I was trying to make a decision before this Test – but I’ve left it, and will have another think (later).”

Published: Saturday 31st October 2015 by The News Editor

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