BIRMINGHAM: Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur is desperate to see a greater return from his top-order batsmen in the third Test against England at Edgbaston starting today.
England levelled the four-match series at 1-1 with a crushing 330-run win in the second Test at Old Trafford — a margin of victory that exposed the tourists’ batting woes.
It was all a far cry from Pakistan’s 75-run win in the first Test at Lord’s, which featured an inspiring century from captain Misbahul Haq.
Poor starts have been a problem for Pakistan in this series.
But Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood are not the first Pakistan opening pair to struggle in English conditions.
Indeed you have to go back to 1996 for the last time a Pakistan first-wicket duo put on a 50-run stand in a Test against England in England.
“I was really disappointed with our performance at Old Trafford,” said Arthur. “There are credible losses, and there are losses when you lie down and are steamrollered … Old Trafford was clearly that.”
And the former Australia coach highlighted his players’ meek surrendering of the lead they gained at Lord’s. “I told the guys I thought we were warriors at Lord’s. We were completely the opposite at Old Trafford,” he said.
Masood has become something of a ‘bunny’ for James Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker.
He has fallen six times for just 15 runs in 57 balls to the Lancashire paceman, dating back to last year in the UAE.
Pakistan could promote number three Azhar Ali to open and bring young Sami Aslam, yet to feature this series, into the side in place of Masood.
“We’ve had discussions. We’ve given that position some serious thought,” said Arthur. “We’re very clear on what we’re going to do this Test, but it’s not for public consumption.”
Seeing Pakistan’s top-order edge into the England slip cordon has become a common sight this series and Arthur said: “Batsmen are going to get out — but when there is a trend that develops, that’s when it is concerning for us as support staff.”
England, however, also look vulnerable at the top of the order if Pakistan can find a way past home captain Alastair Cook and Joe Root, who both made hundreds at Old Trafford.
“We feel if we can get into them with the new ball, we’ve got a real good chance,” added Arthur. “Clearly Cook and Root are the beacon of England batting at the moment.”
Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah took 10 wickets at Lord’s but only managed one at Old Trafford.
However, Edgbaston has a reputation as a spin-friendly surface and Shah, still very much in the infancy of his Test career, will look to get back to his best this week.