England will be 'real test' - Afridi
Shahid Afridi is expecting England to be a "real test" for Pakistan when they arrive in UAE next month although Pakistan's recent form against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will leave them in good heart ahead of the opening Test in Dubai on January 17.
On the eve of their Test series against Bangladesh, Pakistan have won every trophy that has been available to them since sharing the Tests against West Indies, in the Caribbean, last May. However, that has included success against lower-ranked opponents including Ireland, Zimbabwe and now a struggling Bangladesh.
Afridi won't be part of the Test team having retired from the format but is back as a key member of the limited-overs outfits and is aware that the visit of England will be step up from their recent opposition. England are ranked No. 1 in both Tests and Twenty20 although remain mid-table in 50-over cricket following their 5-0 whitewash against India.
"Winning (throughout the year) gave us a momentum and moral is high," Afridi told reporters at airport on his return from Dhaka. "We have developed a winning unit but it will be exciting when we face England and that would be a real test. Playing against team like England or Australia is very exciting and then we will see where we stand."
Intikhab Alam, the former Pakistan coach, also believes the winning momentum will serve Pakistan well. "We are coming in with a lot of victories under our belt and every player is laden with confidence," Alam told ESPNcricinfo. "But we have to be wary about our upcoming series against England. We definitely need to work harder in various departments."
Spin-bowling is likely to play a major role in the series and Pakistan are well stocked in that department with Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez having all made an impact in recent months.
"We have two outstanding spinners and that's could make a clear difference. With the bowling unit we can bowl out any team in the world twice," Alam said. "But I again insist that fitness and fielding are the vital aspect and you can't even afford to miss the half chances against a team like England. We are not a bad side if we make an analysis between our players and theirs we have got fair chance of beating them."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent