When England arrived in UAE as the world number one Test team, they had everything going their way and Pakistan were looking to bury the demons of spot-fixing scandal after some solid performances against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, all the talk about Pakistan revolved around the fixing and the fixers. However, amidst all that unwanted hoopla, Misbah-ul-Haq was building a solid team in the background. Since taking over the captaincy it has been an easy run for him but this England series was the real test awaiting Pakistan, and Misbah and Co. have started off in style.
Turmoil has been the key word for Pakistan cricket team akin to their political scenario, but Misbah seems to have changed it all. The ‘tuk-tuk’, as he is jokingly called for his ultra defensive mindset on-field, has provided the stability that Pakistan were missing for quite a few years. There was no dearth of talent for the sub-continent giants but somehow things were not going the
ir way and when they did -- even the world No.1 team was made to look mediocre.
Fittingly enough, even this was a litmus test for England after being crowned the No.1 Test team recently. After thumping India 4 – 0, they had enough time to bask under the glory and the deserts of UAE and much more awaited the visitors. Interestingly, England and Pakistan have enjoyed a love-hate relationship in the cricketing field for a long time and the war of words between the top players of each team was a proof of that. Graeme Swann against Saeed Ajmal is definitely the marquee sub-plot of the series and with Ajmal playing the mind games with his ‘teesra’, Swann was not willing to ignore.
But, with ten wickets in the bag in the first Test, Saeed Ajmal wrecked the English attack and with that won the first battle of the offies. He also got the bragging rights as he dislodged Graeme Swann from the third position in the ICC Test rankings.
This defeat also highlighted the spin factor which is the biggest nemesis for England even now. With due credit to Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammed Hafeez, England batsmen batted poorly on a pitch which had nothing much on offer for the bowlers. But again, in the second innings, Umar Gul’s early burst had England on the mat.
This is a hopeful start by the sub-continent giants and with Misbah-ul-Haq at the helm of affairs, they might as well prove a point or two in the series. A wind of change can be sensed in the Pakistan setup and the big one has to be Zaka Ashraf taking over from the controversial Ijaz Butt as the PCB chief.
Cricket has for long taken the backseat for these Asian giants and their revival would do a world of good for the cricketing community.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)