Pakistan, England aim to bury spot-fixing ghost

Dubai: Pakistan and England hope to move on from the 2010 spot-fixing case as they enter the first of three Tests starting in Dubai stadium from Tuesday – their first encounter since the scandal.

Salman Butt, then Pakistan`s Test captain, and pacemen Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were handed lengthy bans by the International Cricket Council last year before an English court gave them prison sentences.

The trio and their agent Mazhar Majeed were charged for conspiring to bowl deliberate no-balls during the Lord`s Test in 2010.

But to their credit, Pakistan have not lost a Test series since then as Misbah-ul Haq has led them admirably -- both on and off the field.

Despite that the prelude to this series -- shifted to the United Arab Emirates because of security concerns in Pakistan -- was marred by the talk of the scandal, much to the anger of Misbah.

"It`s two years now and we have moved on from that difficult period," said Misbah, not selected for that 2010 tour. "We want to focus on cricket. That is what we have been doing for an year and a half and that saga is past for us."

Since the Lord`s Test, Pakistan drew 0-0 against South Africa, beat New Zealand 1-0, drew 1-1 against the West Indies, beat Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka 1-0 and Bangladesh 2-0.

Misbah credits his players for the unbeaten run.

"The credit goes to the team and to players - after that difficult time everybody stuck to the task, gathered their thoughts and everybody wanted to prove to the world that we are good players and a good team," said Misbah.

"The key is performance of the team is showing that everything is going on well and we are determined to give our best against a tough opponent who are ranked number one in Tests."

England captain Andrew Strauss, who led his team to 3-1 win in that spot-fixing marred series, also showed resolve to move on.

"The spot-fixing stuff is something we`re desperately keen to move on from," said Strauss last week. "What`s happened before is water under the bridge and I hope both sides can play the game in the right spirit."

Pakistan`s squad still has paceman Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal and Imran Farhat despite their names being mentioned by Majeed during the fixing trial.

But Strauss has no complaints over those inclusions.

"It`s their (Pakistan) obligation and duty to pick the best side they think is available to them," Strauss said.

"We will play whichever XI is selected. We should see this series as an opportunity to erode or eradicate the perception that there`s always issues between Pakistan and England."

Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in a Test here in October last year, employing two spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman.

They are likely to use the same ploy against England batsmen, regarded as weak on the Asian spin pitches.

England are also considering the option of playing both their spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar along with two seamers in James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Panesar, who last played in the Cardiff Test of the 2009 Ashes, warmed up with an eight wicket haul in the second tour match.

England may have a few worries over the form of middle-order batsmen Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan -- who all flopped in the lead-up games but Alastair Cook, Strauss and Jonathan Trott were among the runs.


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