Team Misbah triumphs
The Abu Dhabi pitch was easing up, the heavy roller would flatten it further. Team Misbah had batted too Misbah-ly, going at a crawl when a thrash or two would have eased nerves. England bat deep and 145 was a trifling target for the world's No. 1 Test team, which boasts some of the planet's leading batsmen. Think again. Misbah-ul-Haq's Pakistan has a layer of ice smothering the fire in its veins, unlike any Pakistan team that has blown hot and cold before it. Forget rankings, Pakistan cricket and its supporters are feeling on top of the world.
For a cricket nation exiled from its home, a home ravaged by conflict and political instability, a team decimated by controversy and skulduggery, this series victory is a momentous triumph, earned through relentless grind and magical spin bowling. Pakistan's spinners have been irresistible in this series; running through England's batting order in three innings out of four is an outstanding achievement, one that not many could have predicted.
Today belonged to Abdur Rehman--he had just reward for many days of unwavering support of his spin partner, the poker-faced wizard Saeed Ajmal. Rehman doesn't always extract turn, but he did here--at speed. England's batsmen were trapped on the crease, bamboozled and beaten. Meanwhile Ajmal, almost silently, became the fastest Pakistan bowler to a hundred Test wickets. Hailing from the nation of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, and Waqar Younis, Ajmal's record is as stunning as Pakistan's success.
But Ajmal's ascent would have been difficult without the stability of Misbah's captaincy. Misbah has flirted with Pakistani hearts before, only to break them. In Test cricket, as captain of his country, he has discovered a river of love. The only debate about Misbah's captaincy is the run-rate of his batsmen, such a trifling matter in the grand order of Pakistani controversies that it speaks volumes about the success of his methods.
Misbah has brought tenacity to Pakistan cricket, best exemplified by the fascinating partnership between Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in Pakistan's second innings. Previous Pakistan teams would have succumbed to a base instinct to blast their way out of trouble, yet Misbah's young troopers dug in, deeper and deeper. A partnership alien to the Pakistani spirit, albeit hewn of Misbah's cool resolve, forged the winning margin.
Pakistan's rejuvenation, however, isn't exclusively made in Mianwali, home of Misbah. From his pavilion, Mohsin Khan the Eagle, has been watching keenly, urging, cajoling, hugging, even kissing. An unlikely and unpopular selection as interim coach, Mohsin has won over his critics and left Pakistan's cricket board with an unexpected dilemma. When captain and coach combine in such spectacular fashion, why change the formula?
World cricket is a more exciting place with Pakistan cricket a powerhouse again. Success has come on pitches reminiscent of home, but the same could be said of all the countries above them in the Test rankings. The first of these countries that begins to dominate abroad will emerge from the pack. It is a pleasant surprise to count Pakistan among them.
England were good in Abu Dhabi but Pakistan were better, ripping an absorbing Test match from the grip of their formidable opponents. A series win in such a thrilling manner has surprised even Pakistan's careworn supporters. Misbah's Pakistan, of steel, unity, and joy, has given the whole nation a cause to celebrate.
If anybody was in any doubt, Pakistan cricket zindabad.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here