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Pakistan look to regain Test groove

Umar Farooq

July 25, 2014

Comments: 30 | Text size: A | A

Misbah-ul-Haq plays an on-drive during a training camp, Lahore, July 21, 2014
Pakistan's players have been undergoing a conditioning camp for the last nine days © PCB
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Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has admitted his team is rusty having played no Test cricket in the last six months, but said the players will shake off that rust over the course of their ongoing training camp ahead of their tour of Sri Lanka next month.

Pakistan have been undergoing a conditioning camp for the last nine days under an entirely new coaching staff headed by Waqar Younis, with the batting and fielding departments taken care of by Grant Flower and Grant Luden respectively.

"There is some rustiness and this is why we are playing as many as practice matches here to find some flow," Misbah said. "We are trying to get maximum batting practice and have been trying to tune ourselves for the last three days and simulate match scenarios. After all we are professional and we have to deal with whatever is coming our way so we have to manage and we will manage and will be ready by the time the series starts."

Pakistan last played a Test in Sharjah in January against Sri Lanka and at the time faced a nine-month drought but the PCB managed to strike a quick deal with SLC on the sidelines of the ICC meeting in Dubai in April and arrange the upcoming series. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have faced each other in five different series over the last five years - twice in Sri Lanka, twice in the UAE and once, in 2009, in Pakistan.

Since beating England in the UAE in 2012, Pakistan haven't won a single Test series. Misbah cited the 3-0 series defeat in South Africa last year as a setback that the team found hard to shake off. "When we went to South Africa [we] got under pressure after losing there but things have improved a lot so far," he said. "We have started to win matches and that is very important though we are yet to win a series. But there is also a reality that we are improving - our batting is looking good. We will try to repeat the same [last test in Sharjah] performance."

The first Test of the Sri Lanka tour starts on August 6 in Galle. Sri Lanka lost their last Test at the venue, against South Africa, but Misbah guarded against playing up Pakistan's hopes. "Sri Lanka mostly plays its first Test at Galle, it's their hunting ground, first Test is always important and our effort will be to remain focused and get prepared ourselves. The conditions suit us, it's a good opportunity for us, and there is a chance of result there. They [Sri Lanka] lost there against South Africa so they will be under pressure too and there is a possibility of them bouncing back hard."

Pakistan have recalled Umar Akmal after nearly three years out of the Test team, with Asad Shafiq also retained in the squad. These two could compete for one middle-order slot leaving the captain a tough decision to choose between them. "There's no confusion, whatever the decision is it's the selectors' decision. Umar Akmal has been playing well in one-day cricket and has ample experience under his belt. So such in-form players are good can be used (straightaway) because they are not new and they have no pressure on them. Asad Shafiq is a promising player. He has given good performances in Tests and both are the future for us."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (July 30, 2014, 7:49 GMT)

Pakistan's best test squad could have been: 1) Ahmad Shahzad 2) taufeeq umar 3) younas khan 4) fawad alam 5) Misbah 6) umar akmal 7) Rizwan 8) ajmal 9) junaid 10) irfan 11) adil

Posted by t20cric on (July 29, 2014, 16:50 GMT)

@M Sheeraz Faseeh: I also think Fawad Alam should get in test team (I say it all the time in articles involving Pakistan) but not at the place of Asad/Umar Akmal. I think Fawad Alam should be no.4 or 5 batsmen permanently in tests & ODIs. When Misbah retires (it will be soon) then Fawad can take his spot. I think Fawad may prove to be even better batsman than Misbah cuz Fawad takes singles & hits the odd boundary whereas Misbah blocks & takes the odd single or sometimes hits boundaries. The problem is that the their isn't much space for him currently. Azhar Ali won't be dropped cuz of his last 100, Younis & Misbah can't be moved until retirement, Umar Akmal will probably make no.6 spot his own. The only way he can come in is as opener (scored debut test century as opener) or if Akmal/Azhar have extended run of failure. In long run I think the team will be: 1. Ahmed Shehzad,2. Nasir Jamshed, 3. Azhar Ali/Sohaib Maqsood, 4. Fawad, 5. Haris Sohail, 6. Umar Akmal/Asad, 7. Sarfraz/Rizwan

Posted by   on (July 28, 2014, 2:11 GMT)

Fawad Alam played so well in the asia cup and he is a much better choice than umar akmal and asad shafiq. Asad is a technically sound player but he has been very inconsistent. And Umar Akmal I dont think has that temperament needed in a test match to make big scores.

Posted by Gowza on (July 28, 2014, 1:52 GMT)

@M Sheeraz Faseeh umar is potentially a future star and all time great for pakistan. if it was up to me i'd have fawad and umar in the team and have asad and azhar out. azhar ali has averaged in the 23s over the last 2 years in test matches.

Posted by   on (July 27, 2014, 20:31 GMT)

@Gowza@T20cric and others who are of the opinion U Akmal in place of Asad. I think neither should be in the squad. In their place should be Fawad Alam. Hes got one of the best FC records in Pak Crickets history, plus he has better test and ODI averages than both Umar and Asad. more importantly hes got a very mature way to how he goes about building his innings. Be it Test or ODI cricket we need a player like him who can rotate the strike, give the middle order the much needed stability, and anchor the innings.

Posted by t20cric on (July 27, 2014, 17:18 GMT)

I think Umar Akmal should be picked over Asad Shafiq for all the reasons that Gowza said. Also notice that Asad Shafiq has been out of form for quite a long time (I don't remember a reasonable score from him since the 111 in SA). For all people saying that Pak's batting is strong I'm sorry to say but it isn't. We do have a really talented batting side that could be strong though. The reason I say Pak's batting isn't strong is because think of how many times Younis-Misbah partnership saves us after our top order collapses. Then with Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (usually) and one of the weakest tails these days to follow we are over reliant on these two. I think a bating line-up like: 1.Ahmed Shehzad, 2.Shan Masood, 3.Azhar Ali, 4.Younis Khan, 5.Misbah-ul-haq, 6.Umar Akmal, 7.Sarfraz Ahmed would be stronger then what we've had in recent times. Simply because Shehzad, Akmal and Ahmed can all score relatively quickly with the rest providing solidity but we also haven't selected an all rounder.

Posted by Gowza on (July 27, 2014, 6:41 GMT)

umar over asad easily for me. umar is more talented, younger (asad is currently in his prime, let's give umar some experience before he gets to his), they have similar test averages, asad has played 12 more test innings but scored just less than 400 more runs than umar has, umar has the superior overall FC record despite being younger, playing less matches etc umar has a similar amount of FC tons but many more half tons, more overall FC runs, much higher FC average, much higher strike rate. get the talented youngster amongst it!

Posted by Sinhaya on (July 27, 2014, 3:33 GMT)

As a Sri Lankan, whenever Misbah Ul Haq bats against Sri Lanka, I support Pakistan, mark my words!! I have such a passion for Misbah ample times more than any Pakistani. When Pakistan beat us at Sharjah, I was glad Misbah scored the winning runs in the chase. Oh Misbah Misbah dont quit cricket please. Misbah is getting better with age. Your attitude and personality is one of the greatest.

Posted by wapuser on (July 27, 2014, 0:38 GMT)

Umar akmal has to play wicket keeper batsmen in the playing 11

Posted by   on (July 26, 2014, 17:34 GMT)

Azhar Ali is the best Number 3 Pakistan has among the relatively new players. So his position should not be disturbed. Sarfraz Ahmed showed in last series how much promising he is with the bat. He has the will to score quickly as well as to hang in there according to team's need. Pakistan should plan to keep a long-term keeper and I am sure Sarfraz is the best guy right now. Umar Akmal or Asad Shafiq. Really tough choice for Misbah. He may have few sleepless nights thinking about who to prefer. Khurram Manzoor is good player but he has been worked out by Lanka bowling attack, his weakness has been exploited. so giving chance to Shan Masood in first match won't be a bad idea. Bowlers. Forget Wahab Riaz for God's sake. Talha and Junaid will make a good combination and along them the duo of Rehman and Ajmal, but I am afraid Misbah may prefer Rahat over Talha.

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