Salman's soldiers fight again
After the fuss over Mohammad Yousuf's return, tiredness and lack of practice have ensured that Salman Butt can fight another battle with his team. It is time to stand and deliver.
Yousuf says he has been unable to practice for almost two weeks. That knowledge combined with the short gap between the first and second Tests raises further questions about the sanity of the Pakistan Cricket Board in rushing back Yousuf from his reverie.
At the toss, Salman pointed at the construction work around Edgbaston, explaining that the building work might look ugly but the finished product will be worth seeing. Nice analogy but any buliding work needs to show evidence of progress or the builders will get the boot. Any half-competent builder will also ensure that the foundations are not dodgy.
Two of the changes are understandable. Kamran Akmal still hasn't got over the problems that were dogging him on the last tour of England in 2006, which means we've endured 4 years of his uncertain form. The question is whether Zulqarnain Haider has enough quality to hold his nerve in Test cricket?
Saeed Ajmal, we know, is an exceptional performer in limited overs cricket, and now has a chance to demonstrate his ability at Test level. With Danish Kaneria's persistent ability to disappoint, Ajmal is the only option in the current squad.
The key, however, will be Pakistan's batting. No change, and particularly no return for Yasir Hameed, are a major surprise. All the top six, apart from Salman, have something to prove in Test cricket. This is not a happy situation. Pakistan's batsmen seemed unaware of the virtues of not pushing at the ball in English conditions. They are surely good enough to have learnt that lesson quickly?
However well they now perform, the needless drama of the last week has heaped further pressure on this young team. The drama, and the non-selection of Yousuf, has exposed a rift between the cricket board and the captain and coach. The euphoria of Headingley was short lived. Batting first was a sign of positive intent or perhaps a show of defiance. Salman's soldiers will require both these qualities if they are to recover from the damage inflicted over the last week.
Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KamranAbbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here