Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Dubai, 3rd day January 19, 2012

Misbah hails 'confidence-building win'

Misbah-ul-Haq did not,after his side's crushing defeat of England, sound like a man about to get carried away with his success, and with good reason
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Misbah-ul-Haq might be extolled as a great Pakistan captain after his side's crushing defeat of England but did not sound like a man about to get carried away with his success. With good reason; only ten months ago, he was condemned as an old man whose time had gone after he was made the scapegoat for Pakistan's defeat against India in the World Cup semi-final in Mohali.

Even allowing for Pakistan's recent improvement, a 10-wicket victory against England in the opening Test in Dubai had to be Misbah's finest moment. "It's a big victory for us against the No. 1 side in the world, a confidence-building win," Misbah said, with no trace of emotion. "But we can expect a tough time from England in the next Test. That is something that makes you No. 1. They have quality cricketers. Their bowling attack are fighters and they will come back hard."

Misbah's World Cup crawl was viewed by some as inexplicable, but many saw it as a failed attempt to bring stability to a subsiding Pakistan innings. There was a reminder of that reputation for slow scoring on the second day, when he edged Pakistan into a position of authority with great deliberation. He made 52 from 154 balls, an innings of old-fashioned virtues, but nobody will be questioning his approach now.

"There were runs to be had if you applied yourself," he said. "At one stage England were bowling very well with the new ball. We were just concentrating on survival and looking for a lead of more than 100."

Not too many cricketers would have had the strength to recover from that World Cup defeat, especially since it was to India. But against all the odds, at 37, he has proved himself what the former Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson always said he was: the sharpest cricket brain in the Pakistan side, something altogether more substantial than his predecessor Salman Butt.

It is because Misbah is a captain of substance that he will recognise more than most that Pakistan's victory, for all the delightful variations of Ajmal, owed much to England's ineptitude. Pakistan were efficient, but England surely cannot bat as badly again.

Extraordinarily, Pakistan have an air of stability when, in fact, they are clearly in transition. Mohsin Khan is a successful yet interim coach and the man identified to replace him, Dav Whatmore, has been in as yet unresolved talks with the PCB - just the sort of thing to tempt a less orderly Pakistan side into endless conjecture at best, divisions at worst.

Misbah, though, seems to have held things together. "I am asked about the coaching situation so many times," he said. "It all depends on what the PCB decide. Waqar Younis worked hard with the team and the performances [under him] were very good, and now Mohsin's team is performing very well. Whoever comes [in], it is for our betterment and we will have to adjust."

Alongside Misbah, the ruler, sat his talented court jester, Saeed Ajmal, bathed in smiles after his match figures of 10 for 97. He is the bowler whom England must conquer if they are to fight back in this three-Test series.

Ajmal provided the banter that his audience wanted to hear. Firstly, there was the little matter of his 'teesra', which had not lived up to his pre-match billing. To come up with a fourth one would require a lot of hard work, he suggested, so he would concentrate on three for now. And he would have got more than 10 wickets, but he was just trying to help Umar Gul get five as he had not managed it for a long time.

Misbah offered some pertinent observations about his action and the whisperings that surrounded it the moment the England roadshow came to town, as if oblivious to the fact that he underwent stringent testing by the ICC in 2009 when he was stripped to the waist, reflective markers were put all over his arm and he was filmed from every angle by high-speed 3D cameras.

"He is cleared by the ICC already," Misbah said. "He's been playing four or five years in international cricket, he has played in county cricket. Nobody said anything. We should just admit that he is a good bowler. He has some great variations."

It is a jolt to recognise that a Test between Pakistan and England has passed off without incident. It might well be the case that Pakistan had reached such a low point in its cricketing history that it demanded a significant reassessment.

"The spirit of the game was wonderful from both teams throughout the match," Misbah said. "Both teams are focussing on cricket and want to build a good relationship. Nothing happened on field. You haven't seen any gestures - like rude gestures. Everyone was just concentrating on giving hard a time to each other with their batting or bowling."

The hard times were entirely England's. The good times remain with Pakistan. Misbah has supervised a crushing Pakistan victory. To do it once is impressive. Whether Pakistan are capable of maintaining their tempo for the final two Tests, though, remains in question.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on January 22, 2012, 5:15 GMT

    Great win over the no 1 team is remakable. so it is strange that lower ranking team beat high ranking team easily. what is the seacrat ?.it is pakinstan is not lower ranking and whithout talent.they are trapped by match fixers and the traitors as like sulman but. so all this is the reason that match fixer are in jail. so investigative journalist mazar mahmood is deserve million dollar reward that he did it, that even the icc anti corruption unit could not.

  • Ahsan_Shere on January 21, 2012, 18:11 GMT

    @Soofi Sheeraz: I think you also don't follow cricket, Saeed Ajmal has two 10 wicket hauls in his career so far, 1st against WI in providence now against England, never against SL or Ban.

  • SaleemSabir on January 21, 2012, 7:38 GMT

    "only ten months ago, he was condemned as an old man whose time had gone after he was made the scapegoat for Pakistan's defeat against India in the World Cup semi-final in Mohali". Come on David, can't an Englishman praise some one without showing his real rasict side, i have been reading your articles and i always find them biased and untrue, to bring in the world cup semi final on the day when your team was humiliated and shamed in three days, shows what sort of person You are, Grow Up Man, Otherwise the readers will Simpy stop taking any notice of you................. well done Pakistan you realy deserved it and Best of Luck England we need a good Series and hope to see a better performance from you in the next matches....

  • dummy4fb on January 20, 2012, 22:54 GMT

    @AidanFX totally agree.... i expect england to come back solid and that will improve not only england but pakistan... i think pakistans win has painted over the cracks... they need to keep improving we need better batsman to come in....

  • Naikan on January 20, 2012, 22:12 GMT

    Misbah's comment on coaching is very relevant. If the coach is largely left without real power to interfere in team selection, then a cricketer of good standing and ability to vibe well with the players is all that is needed for the subcontinent. Taking a high profile coach from elsewhere might actually be working against the team. I feel that the most impartant aspect is that the coach should be able to strike a cordial, friendly but equal relationship with the players. The team physio also needs to be similar but of course very knowledgable in a practical way.

  • Naikan on January 20, 2012, 21:47 GMT

    I am not surprised with the result. A few weeks ago in articles on England's no. 1 test rank, I had predicted that England would not find their matches against Pakistan as easy as they did against India. For pure test skills, Pakistan has an excellent group of bowlers to draw from. If it had not been for the spot fixing scandal, Pakistan probably has the best collective bowling outfit. Evenso, I feel they are a formidable set. The main reason is the bowlers target taking wickets and not containment. That aspect is a must. Unfortunately the popularity of the short forms of cricket in India (Oneday and T20) has transformed most of the frontline Indian bowlers into containment skill bowlers. But containment will not work for long periods like a 5 day test. To put it shortly if Pakistan hold on their nerve and do not have further problems like spot fixing then I envisage them to be either no. 1 or 2 in a short time under Misbah's leadership.

  • SRT_GENIUS on January 20, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    @ Pro-CricketXpert: You really crack me up! really funny (+5). LOL!

  • dapervez on January 20, 2012, 16:20 GMT

    Great win Pakistan, Very well played game and in the right spirits, I am really impressed with the current team as well as the Captaincy, there are quiet a few calm and intellegent heads in the dressing room now mainly Misbah and Hafeez (a.k.a PROFESSOR) and i guess they have brought a calm in the team a word that is not often associated with the Pakistan team.

    As far as these generalizations and name calling for a team goes I agree with some posters that it is going too far. I personally think it is a great time for cricket where there is no One dominant team and that every one is playing at a level playing field. With that said we should give more importance to cricket and hope the plague of match fixing was a thing of the past (atleast in the international scene).

  • dummy4fb on January 20, 2012, 15:57 GMT

    I still think that we have got very weak batting line up we need to fix number 3 and number 6 batting position though this batting can work in UAE and subcontinent but it will fail just like Indians in Eng SA and Aus.Openers are good and they should be given long run before separating them .I think Azhar ali and asad shafiq has to improve their batting very soon otherwise M Yousaf is still in waiting .I am satisfied with bowling department and i am confident that if we get M Aamir in next few years our bowling department can become invincible for few years say atleat 5 years and Test matches are won by Bowling not Batting.For the next match in abu dhabi my playing 11 will be 1.hafeez 2.taufeeq3.azhar4.younas5.misbah6.umar7.adnan8.wahab9.ajmal10.gul11.junaid

  • premendrasinghal on January 20, 2012, 12:48 GMT

    Teams like India, SL and PAK cannot be assessed on the basis of two or three good games we have seen them in past that they are incapable in maintaining their performance for long time

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