Misbah-ul-Haq is satisfied that Pakistan have done enough to strengthen their batting ahead of the Test series against South Africa. After dropping Mohammad Hafeez, who failed to score more than 25 in last ten 10 Tests innings, Pakistan will have two inexperienced openers in Khurram Manzoor and one of the uncapped duo of Ahmed Shehzad or Shan Masood, but Misbah is certain the new-look top two can produce.
“The conditions suit us, especially our batting. Our openers have very good records on these two grounds [Abu Dhabi and Dubai],” he said. “The team is in good shape and we will really give South Africa a hard time.”
This will be the first time since 2010 in the UAE, when the venue started being used as Pakistan’s home, that they will not have a top two consisting of Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar, who were successful in these conditions. In eight Tests against South Africa (2), Sri Lanka (3) and England (3), they had three century stands, three half-century partnerships and averaged 44.87. Individually, they had one big hundred – Taufeeq’s 236 against Sri Lanka – and five half-centuries.
The lack of experience of that kind could be something for Pakistan to be concerned about, especially when considered in its context. Pakistan’s younger batsmen have not performed up to expectations and have left a large amount of the work for the likes of Younis and Misbah, but the captain is backing the younger guys to come good this time.
“We had a few concerns with the batting line-up but over the practice games most of the guys did well,” he said. “We have good confidence going into this Test match, especially in the batting line-up. The runs scored by the openers is a big positive for us and a good sign for our team.”
Shehzad and Masood both scored half-centuries for Pakistan A against the South African attack they will face in the Test series. Although the Sharjah pitch did not offer much in the way of seam or spin, they handled South African quick bowlers with impressive patience upfront and good technique later on, and took on the spinners in a way that underlined their ability against slower bowling.
The rest of Pakistan A’s line-up also profited in the practice game. Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq scored 54 and 42 respectively. In the other warm-up fixture, Younis carried on from where he left off in Zimbabwe with a century in the Pakistans game against the UAE, while Adnan Akmal scored 71 at the top – perhaps an indication he may be deployed in that capacity – and Abdur Rehman got a half-century as well. Manzoor had slightly less to feel comfortable about, after he was dismissed for 1.
Misbah believed conditions which will be less hostile than what they faced in South Africa earlier this year will serve as motivation for the team to continue building on their commendable showing – given that they don’t play at home – during his time as captain. “In my time as captain, this bunch of guys has really performed well. When I took over, we were under pressure because of what happened with the spot-fixing scandal, but this team really kicked off and the young guys played really well. Keeping in mind that we are not playing at home and not playing much cricket, still this team is playing really well.”
A lot of the younger generation have never played a match in Pakistan and the adjustment has been challenging for them. Misbah said they are slowly starting to see the UAE as an adopted home and getting used to thinking of it as their own. “We’ve been playing here for the last three years so it feels like playing at home,” he said. “We want to prove to the world we are still a good team.”