Shoaibless Pakistan prepare for first four-Test tour in over a decade

shoaib

Are skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq and coach Bob Woolmer prepared for the testing times ahead in England? It is now officially confirmed that the blue eyed boy of Pakistan cricket is now out for the first half of the much awaited England tour. Shoaib who has been the hero of Pakistan’s three match home Test series victory against England last October failed to do the same in the Tests against arch rivals India earlier this year and since he has been out of the action.

No one is quite sure what he has been doing to his ankle since getting out of action because given proper rehabilitation, it should’ve healed comfortably as he has been out of action for quite a few months now. Shoaib who has only taken 162 wickets in his nine-year Test career so far creates serious doubts about his ability to be fully fit for the grand gala of cricket (World Cup) next year.

Shoaib’s injury has sprung up a surprise in the selection with the name of Shahid Nazir in the squad. Nazir who usually finds himself outside the team has forced his way back in the side with consistent performances at the domestic level. Both the coach and captain were quite satisfied with his inclusion in the squad, Also returning to the squad is Umar Gul and paceman Mohammad Sami. The fast bowler from Karachi is reported to be working very hard since being dropped from the national side as was said by the chief selector wasim Bari.

Three Test series victories in a row has rocketed Inzi’s boys confidence sky high. At the moment the green giants from South Asia are placed at number four in the ICC official Test rankings with 109 points and are not far away from an Ashes winning England who are placed at the second spot with 112 points. It would not be wrong if we assume this series as the beginning of preparations for the 2007 World Cup.

Woolmer’s calm attitude and his role as a coach of the national side has been criticised by some former Pakistani players and officials but in the end one has to admit his methods and calm attitude has helped Inzi’s boys to winning ways.

Under his coaching Pakistan has won three, drawn two and lost just one Test series, against an expectedly strong Australian team Down Under. The Inzi-Woolmer combination looks perfect to carry their team home in the Caribbean next year.

Just like his team coach, Inzamam has also been criticised by all quarters. His biggest critics unexpectedly is his former skipper Imran khan, who on the contrary is the biggest fan of his batting. Recently Imran lashed out at Inzamam’s tactics by calling him a defensive captain. This series may turn out to be the true test of his character.

Pakistan has not lost a Test series in England for more then two decades now. England’s last Test rubber win against Pakistan at home was in 1982, where they won a close series with a 2-1 margin .

Success against England in England has always been achieved with a combination of leg spin and reverse swing against them, but the big question is that if this current England team possesses the same weakness against quality bowling of Pakistan. Last year’s Ashes victory proves England batsmen are getting better in playing quality reverse swing and are not the same anymore but spin still is a big weakness of England batters, lack of feet movement and shivers amongst them seem obvious whenever they play quality spin. Shane Warne being the lone fighter for Australia in the Ashes was quite successful in troubling them getting bucketful of wickets and with Danish Kaneria in the Pakistan camp, Inzi’s boys will have the edge in that department.

Opening batsmen had been a worrisome factor for quite a while now but Imram Farhat’s recent form and confident strokeplay has given a lot of heart to Pakistan and for a change consistency is being seen in the opening department by sticking to the likes of Shoaib Malik for sometime now. His defiance against the Lankans on the last day of the first Test match was a gem but his ability to play the new ball against quality fast bowling on fast tracks creates severe doubts and the England tour looks like a perfect test of his abilities as an opener.

Shahid Afridi’s retirement reversal has given a lot of heart to Inzamam as he now have the option to go with three front line bowlers and two all-rounders, which will help increasing depth in both aspects of the game.

KEY PLAYERS ON THE ENGLAND TOUR

INZAMAM-UL-HAQ: His lazy elegance and ability to do the job under pressure has made him one of the most reliable batsmen in world cricket. He earns a lot of respect from his teammates and currently the Pakistan team seems half without him. His ability to do a tough job with ease makes him a dangerous customer in English conditions and if he repeats what he did five years ago in England then England bowlers are in for the suffering.

YOUNIS KHAN: He is said to be the most improved batsmen for Pakistan and if anyone has got doubts about his ability as a batsman they should consult with the Indian bowlers, which might help them in getting their record straight. He is a livewire in the field and doesn’t like giving an inch while batting. This gutsy cricketer from Pakistan is surely the one team will rely on this tour.

MOHAMMAD YOUSUF: Yousuf Youhana turned Mohammad Yousuf but his batting never turned. He is being described as the most consistent batsmen for Pakistan in both forms of cricket. His ability to score at a rapid pace and get the momentum going will surely help Pakistan step in the authority over England.

KAMRAN AKMAL: “When the going gets tough the tough gets going”, these surely are the words that describe this young wicket-keeper/batsman. The shouting boy from Lahore gives Pakistan all the vitamins they need to be a successful team. His excellent glove work and ability to run the team with sheer energy has often gone unnoticed despite his excellent batting under crucial circumstances. Twice he has saved Pakistan blushes against India in back to back Test series. His hundred in Karachi was worth a triple hundred as was quoted by the England great Geoffrey Boycott.

MOHAMMAD ASIF: Mohammad Asif has come of age in his short stay so far and is already being considered as the spearhead of the Pakistan bowling attack. His form with the new cherry holds the key. Unlike other Pakistani fast bowler in the past he seems a different customer who don’t mind bowling long spells while keeping the score in check alongside taking wickets. Mohammad Sami will share a new ball with him which makes a pretty decent bowling attack for Pakistan.

DANISH KANERIA: Kaneria’s tight leg spin and his hunger for wickets completes a good looking bowling department even without Shoaib and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. Leg spin has always been the reason for Pakistan’s success in England. England has always struggled against quality spin bowling and considering the performance of Warne and Murali in their respective last Test series in England one wonders if anything will change in this series.

The middle order looks rock solid with the likes of Inzamam, Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf at their peak and all three representing Pakistan in the top ten of the ICC official Test players rankings. The batting would have looked longer with Rana striking form in the English County Championship against Middlesex, proving his worth at number 9 with a sparkling 64 of 51 balls.

England on the other hand are badly hit by injuries to their key players. Fast bowler Simon Jones looks certain to be out but skipper Michael Vaughan and Ashley Giles are likely to boost England by their return. England’s failure to win a Test series at home against struggling Sri Lanka has left them with more questions than answers. With batters like Marcus Trescothick, Strauss ,Vaughan and Pietersen, the Pakistani bowlers look all set for a perfect challenge.

Although there are few worries in the bowling department for England with their key players like Jones injured but with a new found face in the name of Monty Panesar and the ever disciplined Matthew Hoggard with the support of fiery Freddie Flintoff it won’t be easy for Pakistani batsmen to accumulate runs.

All in all we are in for an exciting England series as this England side looks arguably the toughest England team which Pakistan has beaten in the last two decades.

Source:The News

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Written by Team CricketViewer on June 25th, 2006 with 40 Views

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