Wahab Riaz is living, breathing proof that not all Pakistan left-arm fast bowlers are called Mohammad Amir. And it’s a truth England know only too well.
Over the winter, in a series that otherwise made as much noise as a palm tree falling in the desert, there were times when Riaz appeared to be bowling on different surfaces from everyone else.
This was especially so on the second morning of the Dubai Test, when — in the space of four overs — he hustled out Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. Pakistan took control of the game and the series, and never let go.
Riaz was arguably man of the series. Now, on pitches that will only encourage him, he’s ready to resume his role as attack leader. And after seeing England up close during Pakistan’s 2-0 win in the UAE, he is confident there will be weaknesses to exploit once the four-Test series gets under way at Lord’s on Thursday.
‘I know they’re not as experienced as they used to be,’ he told Sportsmail. ‘They have some new faces who are under pressure to perform. If we can get Cook and Root out early, it will put a lot of pressure on the England batting side.’
Riaz is particularly looking forward to resuming battle with Root, who impressed the Pakistanis during the winter but will be attempting to bed in at No 3 following England’s rejig.
And Riaz, who had him caught behind for 88 that morning in Dubai to trigger the collapse, insists he knows how to spike England’s biggest gun.
‘After the first Test in Abu Dhabi we worked out what he lacks and where he scores runs, so we made a plan of how to bowl to him,’ he said. ‘Over here, the wickets will be much more even. We have made plans. It’s just how we execute them.’
Riaz’s great skill in the UAE was to overcome the conditions by using his pace through the air, and keeping batsmen guessing with a potent mix of bouncers and yorkers. But a Twenty20 stint with Essex has helped reacquaint him with England — and he has worked out how to adapt.
‘If it’s cloudy weather, the ball starts to swing more. If it’s sunny, you have to be more consistent and bowl into the stumps.
‘I love to take responsibility. We’re not a very experienced attack, but we all have the ability to win a Test match. Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah — they can all win you a game.’
Winning over the British public may be a different matter. Riaz, 31, was part of the Pakistan team who toured here six years ago, a trip that will forever be associated with the Lord’s spot-fixing scandal.
And there is a strong desire to make a different impression this time round. ‘Whatever has happened five or six years ago, it’s gone now,’ Riaz said. ‘This series will be very exciting for the crowd. We want to provide excitement, either by winning this Test series or by giving the England team a hard time.’
Key to Pakistan’s chances will be the ease with which Riaz resumes his partnership with Amir. It is an alliance that was cut short after only two Tests back in 2010, at The Oval — where Riaz’s first-innings five for 63 on his debut set up a Pakistan win — and then Lord’s.
‘We are very happy to have him back,’ said Riaz. ‘He’s a dangerous bowler for any opponent. Everyone’s behind him — all the other 16 members of the squad. He’s a part of our family, he’s a part of Pakistan, he’s represented our country — so we are all behind him. We will support him and we really want him to do well.’
And if the focus of England’s batsmen is Amir, then it will suit Riaz down to the ground.