England are in a spin in more ways than one as they head into the second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford on Friday (July 22) looking to level the four-match series at 1-1.
Alastair Cook’s men suffered a 75-run defeat inside four days in last week’s first Test at Lord’s, with Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah taking 10 wickets.
England will hope to play Shah better at Old Trafford, where the pitch is likely to offer more turn and have called in former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq as a coaching consultant at Manchester.
While they will hope he can advise off-spinner Moeen Ali and leg-spinner Adil Rashid, his greatest short-term benefit may lie in tips about how to play spin.
England have been without a specialist spin coach since former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, now in the tourists’ camp, returned home in 2014.
All-rounder Ben Stokes, who missed the first Test with a knee injury, said he was looking forward to working with Saqlain. The Pakistani bowler took four for 74 when the visitors beat England by 108 runs in the second Test at Old Trafford in 2001.
“You’ve got to use the knowledge of the people you’re lucky enough to have come in and work with you,” said Stokes.
“It would be silly if the batsmen didn’t try to get anything out of him, pick his brains and ask how the guys who were successful against him played.”
So keen are England to play ‘positive’ cricket that several batsmen gave their wickets away at Lord’s.
Stokes hinted at a more refined approach by saying: “Old Trafford is known to spin, and obviously that’s going to favour (Shah).
“So we might have to change where you have to think ‘I can do this but no, I can’t do that’, if it’s spinning and bouncing.
“It will just be working out a game plan in terms of how to score, but not giving your wicket away.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan are on a high after their victory. Misbah-ul-Haq marked his first Test at Lord’s with a fine hundred which saw the 42-year-old perform a series of press-ups in celebration.
The captain’s gesture in thanking military staff for the squad’s pre-tour boot camp was echoed by the team after Mohammed Amir had sealed victory by bowling last man Jake Ball.
But in pure cricket terms it was Shah who stole the show, and Pakistan fielding coach Steve Rixon was not surprised by England’s struggles.
“I think most countries around the world play ‘wristies’ (wrist-spinners) quite poorly,” he said.
“To see someone master it and play them well is a treat to see, but I haven’t seen a lot that do it yet,” the former Australia wicket-keeper added.