Pakistan v England, 3rd Test, Dubai February 1, 2012

Shafiq not feeling the pressure

Of all the encouraging signs to emerge for Pakistan in their series against England - and there have been many - the batting of Asad Shafiq could have the most long-term significance.

The 26-year-old Karachi batsman, Shafiq, scored 101 runs in total in the second Test - a hefty contribution in a low-scoring match - and with Azhar Ali produced a second-innings stand of 88 that, with the game in the balance, turned out to have a decisive impact on the result. For two relatively young men to produce such a performance under pressure bodes very well for Pakistan's future.

To make Shafiq's batting all the more impressive, he came into the game under a little bit of pressure. There had been suggestions that Umar Akmal, the highly talented 21-year-old from Lahore, might win a recall. Despite scoring an undefeated century against Bangladesh just a couple of Tests previously, Shafiq had only contributed one other score over 50 in his 13 previous Test innings. He needed to justify the faith shown in him.

Shafiq accepts that he is not the finished article. He took some of the gloss off his first innings half-century with a reckless sweep and failed to capitalise on all his hard work, but he insists that such experiences are part of the learning process.

"Mistakes are bound to happen," he said. "I tried my best to bat for longer but, once in a while, such a rush of blood will happen. I will learn from such mistakes.

"In the second innings, I was out to a good ball from Monty Panesar. It was not a rash shot; it was a good ball. But I don't feel any pressure. I play for Pakistan, not myself. So whichever position my team needs me in, I will bat there and I will play for Pakistan and give my best."

To date, Shafiq has just one century: that innings of 104 in Chittagong. He feels he is improving, though, and has chosen one of the men whose place he has taken in the Pakistan team as his role model.

"I learned a lot from my century against Bangladesh," Shafiq said. "I am learning day by day. I model my batting on Mohammad Yousuf. He is my idol. I have watched most of his innings and, when he scored a lot of runs in one year, 2006, he became my favourite batsman. I learned a lot from watching his style and I hope to bat like him. I want to play as positively as possible and score as many centuries as possible."

Shafiq was impressed with the England bowling. "Their bowling attack was very tight," he said. "They did not allow us to score at even three runs per over. Batting in both Tests has been tough. But, we have gelled very well as a team and played those last two Tests very well."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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