Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Pakistan spinner Yasir Shah expects a tough Test series against England

Posted on 4 August 2020 by Tusdiq Din

Pakistan spinner Yasir Shah is expecting a tough Test series against England which starts tomorrow. Shah who holds the record as the joint fastest player to take 100 wickets and the fastest to take 200 wickets performed well on his last tour of England in 2016 when he took ten wickets in the first Test match at Lords as Pakistan won by 75 runs, in a series which was tied at 2-2. There was some doubt over whether Pakistan’s current tour of England would go ahead due to the coronavirus enforced lockdown, but having had all the players and officials tested, the first Test match will go ahead at a bio-secure Old Trafford.

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Yasir Shah of Pakistan celebrates taking the wicket of Steve Smith of Australia in 2019 at the Gabba

 

“We remained in lockdown for three months at home [in Pakistan] and when we heard that the tour would go ahead, we were excited. Since we arrived in England, we’ve been provided with great facilities, but after three months of inaction, my bowling was a bit rusty. However we’ve had some time to practice and played practice matches where my form has been good,” said Shah.

One of the new covid enforced protocols means that bowlers will not be able to apply saliva to shine the ball. Perspiration can be applied, but that could be challenging for the Pakistan bowlers noted Shah

“This will be a bit difficult to shine the ball. We can use sweat, but [apart from the fast bowlers during their bowling spells] our players tend not to sweat as much in English conditions. It’ll be difficult for the fast bowlers but for spinners it’ll be our good luck as this series we’ll play with the Duke ball. There’s better grip on a protruding seem on the Duke ball. “

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Genuine pace. Pakistan bowler Naseem Shah is the youngest player to record a Test match hat-trick

Shah could be the only spinner in what might be an all pace Pakistan attack against England. 17 year old Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi will spearhead the attack with possibly Mohammed Abbas and Sohail Khan starting too. Shah however isn’t worried at the focus on pace or of the relative inexperience in thePakistan team.

“No, it’s not like that. When I play, I try to perform well and support the other bowlers. We play as a team, a family. So whoever performs well, that is good for our team. We always offer our prayers and best wishes to each other to perform well. This is teamwork. Sometimes one player might perform better and next time, another. This happens and is part of the game. My role hasn’t changed. If the wickets support pace bowlers, then my role is to contain the batsman.”

“Our team might lack Test matches, but if you look at [fast bowlers] Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah and how they’re preforming in first class cricket, and we’ve got players like Mohamed Abbas who has county cricket experience. We’ve played in English conditions and this will help our team. The ball swings and seems here. Our performance will be good and we will do well Inshallah,” said Shah in a PCB webinar call, speaking in Urdu.

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Pakistan’s fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi (R) will play his first Test match in England

Shah and his Pakistan team mates will have kept a keen eye on the recently concluded West Indies series which England won 2-1. The variations on the pitch with the non-saliva polished ball and how the conditions can change quickly will be uppermost in the minds of coaches and Pakistan legends of the game, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Younis Ahmed and Misbah Ul-Haq.

Pakistan have played Test matches at Old Trafford over the years, but have yet to play at The Ageas Bowl, the venue for the second and third Test matches, and a ground where England’s Moeen Ali took 17 wickets in two matches. For Shah, the timing of the latter two Test matches could be in his team’s favour he suggests.

“When you’re taking wickets, when you’re performing, then no one focuses on that but when your form dips, everyone starts saying if he performs well again, the team will win. I’m happy that [bowling coach]Mushtaq [Ahmed] is here because I’m working on my action, on my googly, and overspinning the ball. You see that whenever a county signs an overseas spinner it tends to be during June, July, August and September when spinners get the most help when the wickets are dry and  deteriorating.”

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Pakistan’s Sohail Khan celebrates dismissing Stuart Broad of England during day one of the 4th Investec Test between England and Pakistan at The Kia Oval on August 11, 2016 

“In 2016, I managed to play well, and was helped by Mushtaq Ahmed. His advice was invaluable as he has many years of playing county cricket in England, what the wickets are like, how they are likely to change. We’ll have to take a look at the wickets. Normally in July and August, the wickets tend to be spin friendly in England. The spinners will definitely get help here though. I don’t feel pressure, just that my concentration levels have to remain high and this motivates me to practice more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2016 you took wickets at Lords and at the Oval and it was also during the months of July and August. As a senior bowler, with experience of English conditions, is there more pressure on your shoulders given that the Pakistan attack is relatively inexperienced ?

 

“In 2016, I managed to play well, and was helped by[ bowling coach] Mushtaq Ahmed, who is with us again this time too. His advice was invaluable as he has many years of playing county cricket in England, what the wickets are like, how they are likely to change. We’ll have to take a look at the wickets. Normally in July and August, the wickets tend to be spin friendly in England. The spinners will definitely get help here though. I don’t feel pressure, just that my concentration levels have to remain high and this motivates me to practice more.”

 

The bowling focus has been on Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, has this affected your performances, has your role changed in the side?

 

“No, it’s not like that. When I play, I try to perform well and support the other bowlers. We play as a team, a family. So whoever performs well, that is good for our team. We always offer our prayers and best wishes to each other to perform well. This is teamwork. Sometimes one player might perform better and next time, another. This happens and is part of the game. My role hasn’t changed. If the wickets support pace bowlers, then my role is to contain the batsman.”

 

Has Pakistan neglected developing more spin bowlers in preference to a pace attack?

 

“No.. We have Mushtaq Ahmed with us and he helps our spinners, On my action for example, we have worked a lot on that. I’m working on my googly and it is improving. The PCB has provided us with coaches to help the fast bowlers and spinners and that’s something the PCB sees as the same.”

 

On shining the ball without saliva

 

“This will be a bit difficult to shine the ball. We can use sweat, but [apart from the fast bowlers during their bowling spells] our players tend not to sweat as much in English conditions. It’ll be difficult for the fast bowlers but for spinners it’ll be our good luck as this series we’ll play with the Duke ball. There’s better grip on a protruding seem on the Duke ball. “

 

There are two test matches at Southampton where Pakistan has never played a Test match. The weather will be dry in August, at a ground where England’s Moen Ali got 17 wickets in two matches. Some former [Pakistan]players, (Amir Sohail and Saeed Ajmal) have said that this inexperienced Pakistan team won’t do well on this tour, and also your record at Old Trafford isn’t great. Your thoughts?

 

“We’ve come here a month before the matches to acclimatise and the wickets in July and August help the spinners and we will do our best for Pakistan. In 2016 we had a 15 day training camp

England are world champions on their home ground. Last time it was 2-2. The Pakistan team might be inexperienced but the coaches (Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Misbah Ul-Haq) are very experienced.

Our team might lack Test matches, but if you look at[fast bowlers] Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah and how they’re preforming in first class cricket,  and we’ve got players like Mohamed Abbas who has county cricket experience. We’ve played in English conditions and this will help our team. The ball swings and seems here. Our performance will be good and we will do well Inshallah.”

 

What would be a good score to defend in England?

 

“You never know, in cricket, sometimes 250 can be a good score, and then again sometimes 450 might be too little. It all depends on the conditions, but we’ll take a look at what we have on the board and plan what we’ll need to do.

 

On injuries and fitness

 

“I struggled over the last 14-18 months, I picked up an injury and became unfit. It was a hard road back to recovery and form and my confidence returned when I started picking up wickets again and I became confident that my rhythm was returning.”

 

How are the team coping in bio-secure conditions, knowing that you can’t just wonder out into the UK’s Pakistani community for a meal in the evening or have a day out sightseeing?

“Our focus is on cricket, we’re all together. We’re in a good location, with our food and well being taken care of. In the current climate it’s better not to travel out.”

 

Does Pakistan have a secret weapon?

 

“I’m trying to make something happen. I’m working on my googly and it’s going well.”

 

Will it be bowling versus bowling or will the batsmen take centre stage ? Previously Pakistan had the spin pairing of Saqlain Mushtaq with Mushtaq Ahmed, Saeed Ajmal with Abdur Rehman. You’re on your own, here, is that pressure on you?

 

“There’s no pressure on me. In Dubai we played with two spinners but our aim is to help and support the bowling attack. Our batting is strong. Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Imam Ul-Haq, Abid Ali, and Inshallah they’ll all perform well.”

 

How did Mushtaq help when you were low in confidence ?

 

“For my debut, Mushtaq played and he gave me a lot of confidence and he told me to bowl like I had in first class cricket. He motivated me a lot. He’s with us on tour and he’s advising on the best way to approach any match situation.”

 

 

You’ve not taken five wickets for a while and given that matches tend to not go to five days, will you be as effective on a day three and day four pitch?

 

“When you’re taking wickets, when you’re performing, then no one focuses on that but when your form dips, everyone starts saying if he performs well again, the team will win. I’m happy that Mushtaq is here because I’m working on my action, on my googly, and overspinning the ball. You see that whenever a county signs an overseas spinner it tends to be during June, July, August and September when spinners get the most help when the wickets are dry and deteriorating.”

 

On your batting, can you get another test century?

 

“I got one in Australia, so why not? Misbah and Younis are working on batting with all the players, during daily nets, I’ll get up to 45minutes on my batting. I have a plan to make a century, why not?