Pakistan and England captains focus on action after spot-fixing scandal.
Misbah and Strauss hope to take the tough with the smooth
DUBAI // Andrew Strauss and Misbah-ul-Haq have promised tough, uncompromising cricket between England and Pakistan in the coming days, but without the sort of spot-fixing controversy that marred the last contest between the two teams in 2010.
The much-anticipated series starts today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium with the first of three Tests.
"Given the history of the series … it is important that we recognise our responsibilities," Strauss, the England captain, said. "But any sort of idea that it's not going to be a competitive series are well wide of the mark.
"Its going to be a tough series between the two good sides, both of whom are hungry to keep improving and keep getting better and come the first ball tomorrow there is going to be a lot of competitive situations there.
"We are not treating this differently to any other series and I don't think we should do. You get out there and play hard cricket and you make sure that things don't escalate into something more serious, and that's what we do in every series.
"We have a lot of respect for the Pakistani players. There's always been a huge amount of talent in Pakistan and obviously they have been very consistent recently.
"So we are expecting a very strong challenge, especially in these conditions, and it's a challenge we are looking forward to."
Misbah, the Pakistan captain, said: "We just want to play cricket in a good atmosphere. We want to build good relations between the teams and not allow them to deteriorate. Whatever happens on the field just stays there; we want to prove ourself through our performance on the field and nothing else."
England are playing a Test series for the first time since thrashing India 4-0 at home in August, a win which helped them climb to the No 1 ranking in Test cricket.
They arrived early, on January 3, to get acclimatised and have played two warm-up matches, winning both. Pakistan came here on January 9 and will be going into the match without a formal warm-up match, but Misbah does not believe that will be an issue for his team.
"We've been playing cricket regularly for the last two-three months," he said. "We played a series here against Sri Lanka and then went to Bangladesh. We needed rest.
"We played a game within our team and I am satisfied with the practice before the series."
Pakistan have also played a lot of cricket in the UAE, including home Test series against South Africa and Sri Lanka, and Misbah believes that experience will be to Pakistan's benefit.
"I think this is an advantage because our team knows these conditions well, the pitches and the weather," the Pakistan captain said. "But at the same time, it's important to play good cricket against England because they are a top side in the world.
"So we just can't rely on knowing the conditions well; we still have to play good cricket."
Misbah also knows England will be looking to prove their credentials in subcontinental conditions in this series. If you exclude Bangladesh, the Englishmen have not won a Test match in this part of the world since their victory in Mumbai in 2006; their last Test series win in the subcontinent came in 2001 in Bangladesh.
"They are looking to prove they are a better team in Asia in these type of conditions," Misbah said. "I think this is going to be a good contest.
"England are the No 1 team and they have been playing really good Test cricket. It's important that we play well against them.
"I am really happy with the way the team has played in the last six series and we just want to keep doing that. This series is a good opportunity for us to prove ourselves in this format of the game.
"We are confident we can do that. We have the talent, the only thing we need is application. The top teams will not give you many chances, so we have to be alert.
"We have to be on the top of our game all the time. If we can do that, we will have a good chance."
After this first Test in Dubai the two teams will move to Abu Dhabi for the second Test from January 25 before returning to the Dubai Sports City for the series finale from February 3. They will play four one-day internationals and three Twenty20s later next month.
This is the first of England's three Test series in Asia this year. They travel to Sri Lanka after this series and to India at the end of 2012 after home Test matches against the West Indies and South Africa.
"Our subcontinental cricket has not been an area that English sides have done particularly well in," Strauss said. "So that's an immediate hurdle we need to overcome.
"It would be clearly wrong to say that our goal isn't to win those three series we got coming up, but on the other side there are other goals because we've got a big summer in England ahead as well."
Ticket information, s14