x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Saeed Ajmal backed to put England in a spin

Pakistan is optimistic that Saeed Ajmal's new delivery will cause England's batsmen problems when their Test series begins.

Saeed Ajmal bowls in the nets for Pakistan in Dubai.
Saeed Ajmal bowls in the nets for Pakistan in Dubai.

DUBAI // Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, is ready to unleash a secret weapon on the England batsmen.

Saeed Ajmal, the Pakistan right-arm off-spin bowler, has developed a new mystery delivery which he plans to used against the likes of Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen.

Ajmal had first talked about the delivery - billed the teesra (the third one) - before the 2011 World Cup and intends to have it as part of his bowling arsenal in the three Tests, four one-day internationals and three Twenty20s against the world No 1 Test team.

"He has developed a new delivery," said Misbah yesterday. "He has been practising it for the last two or three months and now he is bowling it really well. So let's see how the England batsmen tackle that."

When asked to explain the specifics of the delivery Misbah said: "That's a secret. When he uses it, you will know then … you will know that he can bowl a teesra.

"Everybody knows that he is a very good bowler and has a lot of variations. So he is the main bowler for us. He is really performing well for Pakistan, but we are not depending on just Saeed Ajmal.

"I believe we have a very good bowling attack, but we have high expectations from Saeed."

Sarfaraz Ahmed, the captain of the Pakistan Cricket Board XI who play an England XI in a three-day warm-up match at the ICC Global Cricket Academy from today, said Ajmal had bowled a few teesras during the last Test series in Bangladesh and placed his compatriot ahead of the England spinner Graeme Swann.

"I believe Saeed Ajmal is better than Graeme Swann because he has got a lot of variety," said Ahmed, a wicketkeeper who claims to be able to read Ajma's teesra. "He's got the off-spinner, the doosra and now the teesra.

"He has a very different style of bowling the doosra and I believe he will give England a difficult time I believe he has already bowled the teesra during the Bangladesh series, so I think you will see it against England as well. He has worked on it since, so let's see how the England batsmen do."

Ejaz Ahmed, the former Pakistan cricketer who is in the UAE as coach of the PCB XI, reminded England about Ajmal's five-wicket haul at Birmingham in the last Test series between the two nations. The 34 year old took 12 wickets in that controversial series, which England won 3-1.

"He has been practising the teesra during the camp," Ejaz said. "In the last series at Birmingham, Ajmal took five wickets against England. So I hope he is going to perform well again."

The 2010 series between the two nations was marred by the spot-fixing scandal, which saw the then Pakistan captain Salman Butt and the bowlers Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir, banned for taking money to bowl no-balls at pre-decided times in the Lord's Test. The trio have since been sentenced to prison in England.

But Misbah said the events of 2010 will not cast any shadows over the current series, which starts with the first Test at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium from Tuesday.

"Both teams know we have to just forget the past and move on," he said. "Nobody is worried about what happened in the past. We are just focusing on the present and looking forward to the future.

"That has been the key for us and it has helped our performances. We are here to play hard but fair cricket and make sure cricket is the only point of discussion."

Pakistan have not lost a Test series since losing to England in 2010. They drew 0-0 with South Africa here in the UAE, beat Zimbabwe in the lone Test at Bulawayo, prevailed 1-0 over Sri Lanka in the three Test series here and then blanked Bangladesh 2-0 at home last month.

Misbah is keen to continue that upwards climb. "When you play against the top team of the world, it's a big challenge for you and an opportunity to prove yourself as a player and as a team," Misbah said. "We are looking forward to doing that.

"England are playing really good cricket at the moment and they will be keen to prove they can play better cricket in Asian conditions.

"We also have a point to prove: that we can play really good cricket against a top team. So that will be our focus."

arizvi@thenational.ae