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29 November 2023

Beating England 3-0 will be big: Misbah

Pakistan's cricketers Saeed Ajmal (left), Adnan Akmal (centre) and Junaid Khan warm up during a practice session at the ICC Global Cricket Academy at Dubai Sports City on February 1, 2012 (AFP)


Captain Misbah-ul Haq believes routing world number one England 3-0 will be a big achievement but stressed his team will not take that extra pressure into the third and final Test starting here from Friday.

No team has ever registered a clean sweep in the 58 years of Pakistan-England cricket and Misbah's team has a good chance of creating history after their comprehensive ten wicket win in the first Test and by 72 runs in the second.

England, who will also be in danger of losing their world's top rankings if they lose here, will have to find a quick solution to counter Pakistani spinners Saeed Ajmal (17 wickets) and left-armer Abdul Rehman who has 12 in two matches.

Misbah said Pakistan will look for an encore in the third Test.

"It will be a big achievement for the team (winning 3-0)," said Misbah of the clean sweep which Pakistan last achieved against Bangladesh at home in 2003, while their last against a top Test nation was beating West Indies 3-0 in 1997.

"The way the team is performing with consistency, if we play well like we did in the first two games good results will come but we will not take that extra pressure (of clean sweep)," said 37-year-old Misbah.

Since taking over as captain in the aftermath of spot-fixing scandal during which Pakistan lost 3-1 to England in 2010, Misbah has led Pakistan to eight wins with one defeat and five draws.

Misbah said England were still a good team and winning the last Test will not be easy.

"No doubt, England is a good team, they are number one in the world and it will not be easy because they will be more prepared, but we will try our best," said Misbah, who praised Ajmal and Rehman.

Ajmal took a career best 7-55 in the first Test here and Rehman registered his best 6-25 in the second in Abu Dhabi, feats which Misbah said were extraordinary.

"I think both have been bowling well for quite some time now and they create pressure on the batsmen and never give any opportuinty to let them out of that and on top of that England batsmen were low on confidence," said Misbah.

Misbah hinted about keeping the same combination, although Pakistan have the option of using the bench player in paceman Wahab Riaz in place of Junaid Khan.

"I am a firm believer in the balance of the team because the first priority is to win and I think we will go with whatever is the best combination for the team," said Misbah, predicting the Dubai stadium pitch will help batsmen more than in the first Test.

England captain Andrew Strauss admitted the key would be countering Pakistan's spinners.

"That's one of the crucial things about playing spin, you have to adapt your game according to the surfaces you play on. I am very optimistic, you'll see people a bit clearer in what their gameplan is and how they are looking to play, which is a good starting point," said Strauss.

"These conditions are slightly different, so it's more about adapting your game to the conditions than going right back to square one and saying 'right, I need to change everything'. That's a dangerous route to go down.

"It's a setback (2-0 down) in the sense that we didn't want it to happen, and we didn't want to lose a series. But that's gone, finished - and in some ways, maybe it's a good lesson for us that if you're five percent off your game against the majority of sides you're going to come unstuck."

"We desperately want to avoid losing the series 3-0; we desperately want to come back and show we're better than we have shown so far in the series. I think there's a feeling among the whole squad that we can and should come back and do that."

Strauss added that middle-order batsman Ian Bell was fit after suffering stomach problem which forced him to miss practice on Wednesday.

The only question remaining is whether England will play with two spinners or drop one from Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar.