Pakistan’s head coach Waqar Younis admitted last weekend he was excited by his team’s 2-0 Test series win over England, saying his players are now settled in the longer format.
Pakistan thumped England by 127 runs in the third and final Test in Sharjah, which lifted them to number two in the Test rankings, a slot which they also held previously, although only briefly in August 2006.
“Beating a top team is hugely satisfying and no matter what the conditions were, a win against the Ashes-winning team, which is on the rise, is hugely exciting,” Waqar, who is in his second stint as coach, said.
“I am really proud about the performances of the boys. The way Misbah-ul-Haq performed, (Mohammad) Hafeez, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz Ahmed in batting was great.
“Then the way Yasir Shah led the bowling attack in the two matches (after missing the first Test) was admirable,” said Waqar of the leg-spinner who took 15 wickets in two matches.
He also offered praise to the beaten tourists, though. “England gave us a good fight,” said Waqar of Alastair Cook’s team. “We were expecting a tough fight because they are a better skilled team. We knew the conditions and exploited them better, and that was the difference.”
One major decision Waqar is likely to have to make before the next Test series is how to replace captain Misbah.
Misbah had hinted that the England series could be his last but deferred the decision last week, saying he will think about it and decide later.
“I think filling Misbah at number five will definitely be tough for an individual, and that is why I have stressed on youngsters since 2010.
“But that’s the way it goes, you have to move on. We have Azhar Ali settled, Shafiq doing well and Babar Azam and Haris Sohail as back-up. But definitely it will be tough when Misbah and then Younis leave.”
Waqar said he was not thinking too far ahead over his Test team’s challenges of playing in England (July 2016) and the tour of Australia (late next year).
“There is no doubt that beating big teams on their ground is a bigger achievement. But before England and Australia, if India come then that will be a bigger challenge in these conditions which they also know,” said Waqar of the possibility of two Tests against arch-rivals India in the United Arab Emirates.
The tour hangs in the balance as the Indian board has sought permission from Delhi to revive ties with Pakistan, stalled since 2007 due to strained relations.
A decision on the tour, which also has five one-day and two Twenty20 matches, is expected next week.
Meanwhile Pakistan’s fast-rising leg-spinner Yasir Shah vowed to keep his aggressive style intact after spinning Pakistan to the series win over England.
Shah captured seven wickets to help Pakistan win the third and final Test in Sharjah last Thursday (5) – taking 15 wickets in two matches to grab the man of the series award.
The stockily built bowler from Pakistan’s north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been the linchpin of the team’s attack since Saeed Ajmal was sidelined for a suspect bowling action last year.
He took 12 wickets to help Pakistan win 2-0 against Australia in the UAE in 2014 – their first series win over the Aussies in 20 years. Shah then took 24 wickets as Pakistan beat Sri Lanka 2-1 this year, completing 50 wickets in only his ninth Test.
“I am by nature aggressive and attacking in my bowling,” he said. “I need rhythm and it comes with being aggressive in my stride. When I got slow I lost control and bowled short and loose. So I try to attack but am trying hard to be patient, but being attacking is my strength.”
Shah said he learnt a lot from former Australian great Shane Warne, who visited Pakistan in the nets before the decisive Sharjah Test.
“I am presently focusing on my strengths and want to keep it simple. I just want to make sure I keep my head up and hit my target bowling wicket to wicket.
“There are many things I have learnt from Warne but I need to take some time and practice. But I will make sure that I won’t get distracted and keep my natural style,” he added.