DUBAI // Perhaps it was all down to the lucky long-sleeved shirt. Or maybe this Pakistan side can play a bit after all.
Andrew Strauss and his market-leading team of Test cricketers might not have been overly surprised by just how irresistible the home team were in their crushing victory at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
However, Pakistan's rise under Misbah-ul-Haq, the understated captain with the Masters degree, might have gone unnoticed by many.
The game’s most temperamental cricket team do not usually do quiet.
Flying under the radar is not exactly Pakistan's style, but it is suiting this particular side just fine at present.
Not for Misbah the crises of his forebears.
The worst he has had to deal with during a spell of disconcerting calm in the sport in his country has been the news that a new coach, Dav Whatmore, is about to be recruited.
So that brings with it the prospect of impending change in Pakistan cricket?
This 10 wicket victory here marked the zenith of Pakistan’s revival since their side was so deeply riven by the spot-fixing malaise a year and a half ago.
Only two players remain from the XI who played in the unseemly Lord’s Test of 2010.
Azhar Ali, the batsman, could be on borrowed time, but Saeed Ajmal, the other remnant from Lord’s, has just seen his stock rise to an all-time high. The bewitching right-arm off-spinner returned his best Test figures in the first innings when he took seven for 55, then completed a match haul of 10 by taking the wicket of Graeme Swann to essentially seal the result in his side’s favour.
Cunning subterfuge. Long-sleeved shirts. The teesra. What about the foursra next? Whatever. Life is good.
“To deliver the fourth one, you really have to put in a lot of hard work,” Ajmal said.
“For now I’ll concentrate on the teesra, and the fourth one will come along after that.
“To get 10 wickets in a match is a big achievement, but to get 10 wickets in a match against the world’s No 1 team is something I am very happy to have done in my career.”
Typically, Misbah greeted this win with a sense of caution, pointing out much still needs to be done for Pakistan to win this three Test series.
He spoke with Strauss-esque reason in a moment of triumph, which is another neat portent for Pakistan.
“We are trying to be one of the best teams in the world, but there is a long way to go,” the captain said.
“We have to improve much more. We are on the right path and we are just trying to continue doing what we are doing well.
“This a big victory for us over the No 1 team in the world, and this is a big confidence building thing for us. Now we have to focus. We can’t relax.”
The pitch at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi for the second Test next week is likely to pose different questions of the two teams, but on this evidence Pakistan have most bases covered.
Their spinners showed up some obvious failings in the English batsmen, but the pace bowler Umar Gul, too, posed a potent threat in taking four wickets yesterday.
“They have been playing good cricket for the past 12 months or so, so it didn’t surprise me,” Strauss said.
“They played good cricket in this Test, and their bowling in both innings was excellent.”
Perth is the template for revival
DUBAI // Andrew Strauss, the England captain, is urging his side to invoke the spirit of last winter's Ashes defeat in Perth, as the world's No 1 side bid to turn around their series against Pakistan.
That match, in December 2010, was England’s last loss in Test cricket before their heavy capitulation to Pakistan here yesterday.
England won seven of the nine intervening matches, retained the Ashes and rose to the top of the world rankings in the process.
Feelings of hurt have generally been alien to the England players over the space of those 13 months, but Strauss insists disappointment can be a powerful driver.
“Perth is a good template to use,” he said. “We treated it like an aberration in Perth and it would be right to treat this as an aberration as well.
“The most important thing is that batsmen are very clear about their method and you use the feeling of disappointment as a good motivation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
With all three Test matches in the UAE set to be completed within the space of 21 days, England’s batsmen will have to act quickly if they are to revise their methods to counter Pakistan’s spin bowlers.
England have five days to right their ship before the second Test match starts at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
However, Strauss believes the "aberration" at Dubai International Cricket Stadium gives his side the chance to show they can emerge just as strong from adversity as they have their recent triumphs.
“This is an opportunity to show our resilience and our character,” the captain said.
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