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Speaking with PakPassion.net former Pakistan captain and current commentator Aamir Sohail gave his thoughts on a Test match that can surely be ranked as one of Pakistan’s best ever Test victories, his views on where it went wrong for England, Misbah ul Haq’s leadership, batting with the DRS in place, as well as 2 fast bowlers that he feels that can further improve the Pakistanis squad.

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Saj Sadiq (04 February 2012)

Pakistan, having defeated England in Abu Dhabi, now hold an unassailable lead in the three match Test series in the UAE. Even the most ardent Pakistani cricket fans will not have expected Pakistan to be holding a 2-0 advantage after the first two Test matches against the number one ranked Test side.

A small fourth innings target of 145 for England was expected to bring with it a few nervy moments for Andrew Strauss and his strong batting line up, but not many will have expected the carnage that the Pakistani spin trio of Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Abdur Rehman inflicted on England on Day 4 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.

Speaking with PakPassion.net former Pakistan captain and current commentator Aamir Sohail gave his thoughts on a Test match that can surely be ranked as one of Pakistan’s best ever Test victories, his views on where it went wrong for England, Misbah ul Haq’s leadership, batting with the DRS in place, as well as 2 fast bowlers that he feels that can further improve the Pakistanis squad.


The England Fourth Innings Run Chase

I think England got it wrong in the way that they started the fourth innings run chase. If the spinners were playing on their mind then seeing Umar Gul open the bowling was a great opportunity for them to play their strokes. Misbah was obviously going to give Gul a few overs at the start of the innings and England should have counter attacked against the quick bowler before spin replaced him. Instead what we saw were the England opening batsmen being very submissive and very defensive against Gul.

Ian Bell came in at number three due to Trott’s illness and I feel that the thinking behind that was that Bell would be facing a harder ball and that he may be able to play well against the spinners if the ball was not turning much. It was hoped that he could get a few runs under his belt and then the confidence would start to flow chasing the relatively small target, but of course it did not happen.

In hindsight you could say that England could have gambled and moved Broad or Swann up the order for a brisk 20 or so runs, but having said that when quality bowlers are operating you can slog your way out of trouble once, but that quality bowling line up will not let you do that again. We are talking about world class spinners here and I don’t think they would have allowed anyone to come up the order and hit quick fire runs second time around. 


The Pakistani Batting Approach in Test Cricket

I don’t agree with those that are criticising the Pakistani batsmen’s approach in Test cricket and labelling them defensive and one dimensional. Whoever is criticising the Pakistani batting approach doesn’t understand how difficult it was to bat on a wicket such as the one we saw in Abu Dhabi. The ball was not turning “miles”, where the ball turns it bounces and the straighter deliveries stay low.


Batting with the DRS in Place

With the DRS in place batting has changed for good. It’s become more difficult and if you do not possess the technique then you are going to struggle. The DRS is a wakeup call for all batsmen around the world and it means that they have to find new methods to deal with bowlers who have DRS at their disposal. The DRS is also a reminder to all batsmen as to why they are called batsmen, quite simply it’s because they have a bat in their hands and that they should know how to use the bat. 


Batting Techniques Exposed

The quality of bowling that we are seeing for both sides is absolutely top class. To face this quality of bowling attack on these surfaces is not at all easy.

The quality of bowlers on both sides and the demanding pitch in Abu Dhabi has basically exposed the techniques of some of the batsmen on show in the UAE. I have always felt that this series would be about the bowlers exploiting the weaknesses of the opposition batsmen and the team whose batting was exposed greater would end up losing the Test series. 

To score runs on these wickets that we have seen in the UAE, you have to have a good technique, your approach has to be right and you need to be busy rather than aggressive at the crease. You have to be able to manoeuvre the length like Jonathan Trott did in the first innings. He was using his feet beautifully, he was using the depth of the crease, he was playing well off the back foot and driving the ball nicely on the front foot too and that is exactly the type of approach and technique needed on such a wicket. You did not need to go out there and slog or do something special. In order to score runs in Abu Dhabi you needed excellent technique.


The problems with England Middle Order

I think that the issues the England middle order had in reading Pakistan’s spinners in the first Test in Dubai were still playing on their minds in Abu Dhabi. The masterstroke by Ajmal of stating that he had developed the Teesra before the series had started left some of the England batsmen hunting the Teesra. That pressure and confusion is still there and it is being augmented by the fact that the Pakistani spinners are bowling a very probing and demanding line and length. 


Stuart Broad the Quick Learner

He’s a great talent. The one thing I like about Broad is that he is a quick learner and adapts to the conditions very quickly. It seems like he always has more than one game plan and that is making a lot of difference for him. 


Younis Khan’s Form

Younis is doing nothing wrong, he’s been finding the middle of the bat regularly during this series. If he reaches a score of 30 or 40 then he is in for a big score. The delivery that he received in the second innings in Abu Dhabi was extraordinary and I thought Monty Panesar was at his best when he was bowling to Younis. Panesar bowled the arm ball to Younis for a couple of overs and then suddenly he surprised Younis with a ball that turned away from him and knocked back his off stump. It was an exceptional delivery to get rid of such a good batsman.

In the first innings also, Stuart Broad got Younis out with an excellent delivery, but Younis is not out of form, he’s played well and I feel that it’s just the matter of getting a good start and capitalising on it.


Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq

During the course of the Abu Dhabi Test match Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq grew from being boys to men, in terms of International cricket. They coped well with the pressure and they both approached their innings very well. They both came of age and they now know now how to handle the pressure of playing at the highest level of cricket and to cope in tense situations as they found themselves in when batting second time around. 

Neither went on to make a big score but their contributions really affected the result of the second Test match. Their combined effort and partnership was more important than an individual hundred. I have to be honest here and say that I was never a big fan of Azhar Ali to start with and I still believe that he has plenty of weaknesses in his technique, but one thing I respect with Azhar is his determination and patience. Whatever limitations Azhar has in his batting, he makes up for with his fighting qualities.

I have said all along that Asad Shafiq is a real talent. You have to allow him time to settle down and now that he has settled down I feel he has a bright future ahead of him. 


Misbah ul Haq

I will be as diplomatic as possible, but whoever criticises Misbah ul Haq does not know anything about cricket at all. Those that criticise Misbah need to read coaching manuals and sit down with ex cricketers and to learn about the psyche of cricket. His critics were waiting for his team to fail against England and they were saying that they have only beaten the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Critics were saying that the Pakistani players that did well against the lesser teams will fail against higher profile opposition like England.

Not much credence was given to players who did well against weaker teams by the critics - they said hang on, even Jason Gillespie scored a double hundred against them! Nobody was giving Misbah and his team mates credit for defeating some of the opposition that they did. But if you fail against the lesser teams then the critics will immediately say that this player failed against weak opposition. 

It’s difficult to motivate yourself against the weaker opposition and the toughest aspect is that if you succeed you don’t get the credit, yet if you fail, your critics will come at you with all guns blazing.

When Misbah ul Haq took over the captaincy, it was an emergency for Pakistan cricket. I’d liken him taking over the captaincy to a time when a serious accident had just occurred. It was an accident where emergency treatment was required to stop the bleeding. Firstly the bleeding had to be stopped, the minor injuries had to be addressed and then finally long term medication being administered to enable healing to take place. 

Initially Misbah stopped the bleeding that was happening in Pakistan cricket, then he looked into the minor injuries and now we are seeing the right kind of medication being given to the Pakistan team by Misbah to enable them to recover fully. He has approached the situations and scenarios that he has had to encounter since taking over as captain very methodically and the best thing that he has brought with him is putting the emphasis on cricketing disciplines. Even the great Pakistani teams of the past lacked cricketing discipline and relied mainly on talent. Misbah’s philosophy is based on discipline and I am sure his philosophy will have a major impact on Pakistan cricket in years to come. 


Rahat Ali and Mohammad Talha 

With one or two additions to this squad, particularly in the fast bowling department for overseas tours, namely Rahat Ali and perhaps the addition of Mohammad Talha, this team will excel.

 

Discuss!