Ajmal to unveil special delivery against England
Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan offspinner, has confirmed he will unveil the "special delivery" he has been working on during Pakistan's upcoming Test series against England in the UAE. Ajmal had said in August, before Pakistan's tour of Zimbabwe, that he was saving the variation for the England series, and has now said he will try it but will revert to his existing variations if it does not work.
"I am working on a special delivery," he said at Pakistan's training camp in Lahore. "I won't tell you about it but you will know it when you see it. If it does not prove to be reliable then I will shift my focus back to the deliveries that have brought me success and I will keep that variation for the next series."
Ajmal was the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket in 2011, with 50 wickets from eight games at an average of 23.86, and was a key factor in Pakistan winning five of those Tests. He took 18 wickets during Pakistan's last series in the UAE, against Sri Lanka in October-November last year, and said he recognised he would have an important role to play against England.
"We are going fully prepared and are working on special plans for their batsmen. I am aware of the weight of responsibility on me and am ready for it. In Dubai, the ball does break on the second and third day so hopefully I can play an important role. In Abu Dhabi it's difficult because it's a batting track."
Much of Ajmal's success in 2011 accrued from the inability of batsmen to read his doosra. Often in games, Ajmal bowled almost as many balls that turned the other way as regular offbreaks, leading to some apprehensions about him going the way of Saqlain Mushtaq in losing the ability to bowl his stock delivery. He also bowls with a flatter trajectory than most offspinners, but said that was because he was not comfortable flighting the ball.
"If I bowl with flight I cannot bowl well. If I bowl at a quicker speed I can then use variations in pace. If I take 90% of my wickets with the doosra why should I not bowl it? Whether you bowl a doosra or an offbreak, the ball should be bowled on the right line and one should take a wicket with it."
Ajmal's style of bowling is in stark contrast to England's offspinner Graeme Swann's, which is based on beating the batsman in the air and repeatedly landing his stock delivery on the right length. Though Swann took just 27 wickets in the eight Tests he played in 2011, he remains the highest-ranked spinner in the ICC Test rankings, and Ajmal said there would be healthy competition between the two of them through the series. "Swann is a good bowler and has even been the No. 1 bowler in the world. He has his own variety, I have my own."
Pakistan lost just one Test in 2011, and have won their last three Test series, though two of those have been against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Ajmal, though, pointed out that his best performances of the year had come against stronger opposition.
"Whomever you play against, you have to work for your wickets. Sri Lanka are a top team and I was Man of the Series against them. West Indies [against whom Ajmal took 17 wickets in two Tests] are not a bad team either - we have never beaten them in an away series. Bangladesh was not that good a team but only nine of my wickets came against them."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent