Former all-rounder Ian Botham has written off Pakistan as favourites for the on-going Test series against England, terming the narrow draw in the first game a big blow to the confidence of Misbah-ul-Haq’s side.
Botham, who is currently working as a television expert in the series, said that he was surprised to read comments underrating England before the start of three-Test series in UAE.
”I could never quite understand why Pakistan were such favourites before the series – just like with Australia before the Ashes – and they certainly won’t be now,” wrote Botham in a column for British newspaper.
Pakistan escaped defeat in the first Test after umpires called off the game due to bad-light after only 11 of the allotted 19 overs were bowled leaving England just 25 runs short of sealing victory.
Botham, also known as ‘Beefy’, though, believed that England had made enough of an impact with their extraordinary performances in the first Test to haunt the hosts in the second match starting on Thursday in Dubai.
“The blows and scars that England landed on them in the first Test will take their toll in the second, and I think it will be incredibly hard for them to come back,” he said.
The former English all-rounder said that despite putting up a big score in the first innings, Pakistan could not maintain their grip on the game till the end which was a worrying sign for Misbah.
“To score 523 and then not only lose control of the game but also come within a hair’s width of defeat, is a tough thing to accept,” he said.
Botham expected Pakistan to go back to the drawing board to chalk out ways to deal with a resurgent England side.
“They will be wondering how they ended up in that position.
“They will be wondering how on earth they are going to get Alastair Cook out.
“They will be wondering how they will cope with Adil Rashid if they produce a pitch that they want to help their own spinners,” he said.
Botham went as far as saying that the current England side would become the first team to beat Pakistan in UAE.
”And they will be wondering whether this young and emerging England team is actually further down the road than most people thought and will be the first team to beat them in their UAE ‘home’,” said the 59-year-old.
“Pakistan are there for the taking,” he added.
He said that the youthful England team is capable of displaying ‘excellent’ cricket in all conditions.
“Going into the Dubai Test, the selection meeting between Trevor Bayliss and Alastair Cook should last about 30 seconds.
“They must keep the same team and just tell them to get back out and do the same again. Keep enjoying playing the game with each other, and keep developing as a team,” said Botham who believed that England did not need to tweak their line-up.
Botham, who featured for England in 102 Tests, taking 383 wickets and scoring 5200 runs said that all-rounders Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes are key players for England and they proved it in Abu Dhabi.
“I suggested before the series that the all-rounders would have key roles to play and that is how it proved in Abu Dhabi, with both Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes delivering with bat and ball,” he said.
“It won’t always happen for them, but the fact they both made telling contributions will not only help themselves but will do wonders for their team-mates who know they can be relied on out here,” he added.
Botham expressed his lack of satisfaction with the nature of the Abu Dhabi pitch in the first Test.
“As thrilling as the finish was on day five, I still maintain a pitch like that is not good for Test cricket.”
More than 1200 runs were piled up after both Pakistan and England, in their first innings, put up over 500 runs each on the board. On the other hand the wickets came slow and bowlers from both sides toiled in the hot conditions.
“It [the pitch] should not take that long to misbehave, and you certainly can’t expect Pakistan to implode in the crazy way they did every time,” said Botham.
“Pitches need more in them for the bowlers, full stop,” he added.