Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq believes knocking down England “pillars” Alastair Cook and Joe Root holds the key to his side’s hopes of winning the third Test at Edgbaston.
England levelled the four-match series at 1-1 last time out at Old Trafford.
Between them, England captain Cook and vice-captain Root made 506 runs for just twice out at Old Trafford in a second Test the hosts won by the huge margin of 330 runs.
But you have to go back to May 2015 for the last time another specialist England batsman made a Test hundred — discarded opener Adam Lyth’s 107 against New Zealand at Headingley.
“In every team there are key players and at the moment those two are in really good form,” said Misbah of Cook and Root at Edgbaston yesterday.
“If you really have to put pressure on the opposition, it’s important to get their main players out because those are the two pillars of their batting.
“Psychologically, that can also give you an advantage and damage the opposition if you can get them early, because other (members of the England) batting line-up are struggling at the moment.
“That’s really important for us to just get them (Cook and Root) early and put them (England) under pressure.”
James Vince has yet to make a fifty in his seven career Test innings this season and left-hander Gary Ballance is also searching for a big score following his surprise recall for Pakistan’s 75-run win in the series opener at Lord’s.
“Throughout my time as captain there’s always been something up for discussion and at the moment it’s the middle order,” said Cook.
“Until the guys get good scores consistently that will be the case but they’re very good players and they got picked because of outstanding form for their counties. Turning to number four Vince, opening batsman Cook added: “I like the way he plays. He’s got a couple of starts and the way he handled the whole situation in a different format in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a good indicator of how he can handle the pressure. He needs that score for his confidence and to get you guys (the press) off his back.”
Today’s match will be the 500th Test played in England.
By contrast, Pakistan have been unable to play international cricket at home since an armed attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore in 2009 made the country a ‘no-go area’ for major foreign sides.
Pakistan have since established a temporary ‘home’ in the UAE but Misbah said there was no substitute for playing in front of your own fans.
“It can really hurt your overall development as a cricketing nation (not playing at home)”, the 42-year-old veteran skipper explained.
“Your youth can really be inspired if you are playing internationally back at home. Obviously, you can build more infrastructure.
“It’s one area where you can say we are really unlucky and we want international cricket back in Pakistan, just to help our youngsters and just to help cricket in Pakistan.
“It’s really difficult for the Pakistan Cricket Board and it can really hurt them financially also.
“You can see wherever the World Cups are, or international events, the whole scenario changes, it’s like a fever in that country for that sport. That’s what we have been really missing.”
Asked if he felt it was safe for rival Test teams to tour Pakistan now, Misbah replied: “That (the security situation) has been improving a lot.
“The Pakistan government, the army, everybody is really working hard on that. Hopefully, it will be better in the coming future.”
Anderson not fazed by drop in pace
England seamer James Anderson is confident that he has enough skill and experience to compensate for his decreased pace over the remaining years of his cricket career.
England’s record wicket-taker in the format missed the opening test defeat against Pakistan at Lord’s with a shoulder injury but returned for the second match in Manchester.
Anderson, who turned 34 over the weekend, took four wickets at Old Trafford as England levelled the four-match series with a 330-run victory but there was a discernable drop in pace for the bowler who has claimed 458 victims in 117 appearances.
“I didn’t feel like my speeds were where they could be at Old Trafford,” Anderson told reporters. “I felt a bit like Matthew Hoggard at the end of his career when he slowed down a bit but his control was pretty good.
“With the skills I have, I can do a job even if my speeds did drop.
“With experience, you can stay one step ahead in your head. It is like an old defender in football, who might not have the pace of a quick striker but he’s two steps ahead of him upstairs.”
Anderson has missed a few test matches due to various injuries over the past year but the right-arm paceman still has the “hunger” to contribute for England, saying he was continuing to work hard on his fitness and technique.
“The way I feel at the moment, mentally, I’ve still got a hunger to play the game and a hunger to take wickets and help my team win matches,” Anderson added.
“As long as I’ve got that hunger I’m going to keep working, keep improving and keep working on my fitness and if I get to 37 then great. I just try to concentrate on staying fit for the next game.”
The England selectors copped plenty of criticism for keeping Anderson out of the Lord’s test, which the hosts lost by 75 runs, when the seamer was fit to bowl in the nets ahead of the match and subsequently played for Lancashire against Durham.
“Looking back, without having had any game time before that first test, it was probably wise to get some overs under my belt before I came back into the test side,” Anderson said.
“I think it was probably the right decision.”
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