Yasir ready to carry great expectations
Yasir Shah, the Pakistan legspinner who missed the opening Test against England due to a back spasm, has said he could have "made the difference" if he had played the opening Test in Abu Dhabi.
Saeed Ajmal's offspin was the answer to everything for his captain Misbah-ul-Haq between 2011 and 2014, but with him fading Yasir has been the go-to bowler over the past year. In ten appearances, he has become Pakistan's best bowler in Tests, the man for all situations.
Yasir rued having to sit out the first Test, a stalemate on an unresponsive pitch for four days before England almost forced victory on the last. "The wicket was slow and required a spinner like me who bowls with speed as well," he said. "The pitch played well for all four days but at the same time the role of a legspinner was missing after we missed taking early wickets.
"Since I bowl bit quicker so that could have helped me. So had I played in the Test, the game could have been in a different position and I might have contributed to win it."
He will now come into opposition with Adil Rashid, whose five wickets in Pakistan's second innings represented the best return by an England legspinner since 1959 and so nearly brought his side victory.
Yasir was bowling in the nets ahead of the first Test and had collapsed after catching his studs in the turf. He lay on the ground in apparent pain before being helped away by fellow spinner Zulfiqar Babar. He started running again during the Test and bowled in the net as well. It was a strange accident for a bowler who has had no history of back injuries.
"It was all fine and I was out there for the warm-up session when I was asked by Mushi to bowl a couple of overs. But I fell on the fifth ball and at the time I felt that I couldn't even walk but by the grace of Allah it wasn't serious. I was scared earlier before coming out in the field, but the doctor convinced me not to worry and my all fear was quashed."
This is the first time Yasir has missed a Test since his debut. He suggested it would have minimal effect. "Obviously you feel dejected when you miss out on something very important for which you have planned so hard," he said. "But it's not a big deal. I only didn't bowl for like three or four days and hopefully will get over this gap.
"I had worked so hard watching videos of England players, marking their weaknesses. I was unfortunate with the injury so whatever comes next I am ready for it. I am close to full fitness - for now I am 90 to 95% fit but I am feeling much better. I have bowled some 13 overs on the sidelines during the first Test but now I am going to bowl full with batting and fielding."
Yasir has been a dominant force in his ten Tests and has become the fastest Pakistan bowler to 50 Test wickets.
The rising expectation isn't a problem for Yasir. "Pressure of expectations is immense naturally," he said. "When we were coming on this tour everyone was talking my name, expecting me to take wickets. Even my plan is similar and I am hoping to do the best I can do for Pakistan."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson