Pakistan not to be underestimated
Posted in England v Pakistan (in UAE) 2012
Should anyone consider an England Test series victory over Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates straightforward, they should think again.
While a maiden Test tour to the Middle East may not hold the excitement of last winter’s Ashes, or indeed the previous year’s tour of South Africa, beating Pakistan will prove just as hard if not more so.
Not only are Pakistan unbeaten in Tests at the two venues – the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi – being used, they have not lost a Test series since England defeated them 3-1 in the summer of 2010.
Admittedly Pakistan have played only two Tests at each venue, versus South Africa in November 2010 and Sri Lanka during October this year. The first three were draws before Sri Lanka lost by nine wickets at Dubai, demonstrating the rarity of positive results on such placid wickets.
Since Misbah-ul-Haq became Test captain in October 2010, his side have drawn with the Proteas and West Indies, plus beaten New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
For a team that has not been able to play at home since the terrorist attack on Sri Lanka in March 2009, and been without banned trio Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer since August 2010, they have performed admirably.
Misbah must take significant credit for that, bringing stability to a national side infamous for a high turnover of players. Even when Waqar Younis resigned as coach in August, Misbah maintained the winning momentum from a tour of Zimbabwe perfect in all formats.
A 1-0 margin of victory in the three-Test rubber with Sri Lanka could have been greater, but a 2-0 sweep in Bangladesh completed yesterday could not.
The latter result has left Pakistan fifth in the Test rankings, four places behind their next opponents who will play their first Test as mace holders at Dubai from January 17.
It should be a fascinating three matches with the ‘hosts’ not having lost a Test series for nearly 18 months and Andrew Strauss’s side since their Caribbean tour in early 2009.
If England prevail, it will be the first time they have beaten Pakistan in a Test series abroad since late 2000 when Nasser Hussain’s men famously won in the Karachi gloaming. In the only other meeting between then and now, England’s 2005 post-Ashes euphoria was punctured that autumn.
By modern standards, six years is a long time for Pakistan not to host England. Even though they cannot do so on home soil, their Test ranking does not reflect the threat they pose to England who could lose their number-one status with defeat.
With a genuine home series against Bangladesh scheduled for April, things are looking up for a side that has endured so much turmoil in recent years.