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Misbah urges batsmen to rise to "their biggest challenge"

Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, has called on his batsmen to rise to "their biggest challenge" of competing in English conditions, to give a powerful bowling attack - that looks set to be led by the returning Mohammad Amir - enough runs to put England under pressure.

Misbah, who led Pakistan to a 2-0 series win in the UAE in their last campaign against England, praised the manner in which his team has gelled in the six years since the controversies of their 2010 tour.

However, he emphasised that a series win in England was the "point they had to prove" to draw a line under the spot-fixing scandal that tarnished their image on their last visit to Lord's.

"This is the biggest challenge for us in a long time," Misbah said during the Investec Test series launch at Lord's. "This is the best chance for us, and me as a captain, to perform here especially in these conditions. That's the point we have to prove.

"To perform in England, Australia, even South Africa, these are the tours where you really develop your team. The 2010 tour, I think, was a tough tour, but guys like Azhar Ali did well in tough conditions and situations, and that makes you a better player."

Pakistan's exhaustive preparations for this series have included training camps in Lahore and at the Ageas Bowl in Hampshire, prior to a satisfactory first outing of the tour against Somerset this week, in which Younis Khan and Azhar both made hundreds, and Asad Shafiq chipped in with a brace of half-centuries.

Either side of those performances, Amir impressed with three top-order wickets while legspinner Yasir Shah - who is also making a comeback after serving a three-month suspension for a doping violation - showcased his form with two wickets.

"That's a fact that, whoever comes from Asia in these conditions, the batting really has to stand up," Misbah said. "If you can put good scores on the board, the Pakistan seam attack is good, and we've got the best spinner at the moment who's really bowling well. We really have to stand up as a batting unit and give them good scores, and we are capable of doing well against them."

Throughout their preparations for the series, Pakistan have treated the England tour as the culmination of a long campaign to restore their image, and Misbah praised the extent to which his players had bought into that vision. With Mickey Arthur installed alongside him to add extra discipline as a coach, the signs are promising in the lead-up to the Lord's Test.

"I think we've done really well in the last six years and all credit to the players," Misbah said. "We've understood what was going on with the Pakistan team at that time, and they responded really well in terms of performances, roles and especially, their off-field behaviours. It's about restoring that image for Pakistan and, as a whole, it's quite satisfying."

The focus will doubtless be on Amir come the first morning at Lord's, and though Misbah conceded he had not initially been in favour of his recall following his five-year ban, he insisted he was now fully supportive of his reintegration, not least because it was what Pakistan's fans wanted for their star bowler.

"Obviously those are decisions not in your control," Misbah said. "More importantly it is the fans and how they reacted, they wanted to see him back playing and so they [the PCB] made the decision with the support of the ICC. So we are there to support him, everyone wants to see him playing again."

Plenty has been said and written about the reception that Amir, and Pakistan as a whole, will receive when they take the field next Thursday, but already Misbah was blocking his ears to the off-field noise.

"Honestly speaking, I don't care about these things," he said. "Personally I focus on what's going on in the middle, and how [Amir] performs when he bowls, that's what we are looking for.

"He's got the best chance to prove himself out in the middle, and he doesn't need to worry about what's happening with thousands of spectators saying something. He just has to focus on what's going on in the middle.

"I think he's bowling really well even on flat tracks in T20 cricket, one-day cricket, four-day cricket," he added. "His pace is there, he's swinging the ball, he's got all the tricks to get batsmen under pressure. But one more thing is that he's more mature. He wasn't that mature at that time [in 2010], but that maturity can help him now."

On the subject of maturity, Misbah himself conceded his slight concern that, at the age of 42, this campaign may yet prove to be a bridge too far for, arguably, Pakistan's most influential captain since Imran Khan - and scores of 0 and 19 in the tour match at Taunton were inconclusive. Nevertheless, he insisted he was eager for the challenge, and that in itself would help to get him through.

"That's what you always really fear," he said. "But when there is no hunger, there's no need to play."