SHARJAH: Pakistan’s third and final Test against England from Sunday could be a fitting farewell for Misbah-ul-Haq, the country’s most successful captain who is mulling his Test future.
The 41-year-old, who quit one-day cricket after the World Cup earlier this year, had suggested that he would leave the game after a two-Test series against India in December-January.
But with relations between the arch-rivals once again strained and with that series in doubt, this England series may be Misbah’s last.
“I was trying to make a decision before this Test but now I have just left it,” Misbah said Saturday.
“I will really think about what I should do because there is a long gap before our next series,” Misbah added, referring to Pakistan’s next series in England in July next year.
Pakistan are 1-0 up against England after winning the second Test by 178 runs in Dubai. The first Test ended in a draw in Abu Dhabi.
A 2-0 series win will lift Pakistan to number two in the ICC (International Cricket Council) Test rankings, previously briefly attained by them for few days in August 2006.
Misbah’s personal form and fitness suggest he can carry on, having scored 3, 51, 102 and 87 in the four innings of the series.
But he said a player should leave the game on a high.
“One should think about leaving the game with respect rather than leaving it when he is forced to leave,” said Misbah.
Misbah will hope his team does not squander a good opportunity to win another Test series, as they did against New Zealand, who fought back for 1-1 in Sharjah last year.
The Sharjah stadium pitch has been relaid and is likely to help spinners, with leggie Yasir Shah, who took eight wickets in Dubai, and left-armer Zulfiqar Babar, who managed three wickets, playing a key role.
Shah worked with legendary Australian spinner Shane Warne in the nets on Thursday.
Pakistan will bring in Azhar Ali who missed the first Test with injury and second after his mother-in-law passed away to open the innings in place of Shan Masood.
Also out is paceman Imran Khan after he injured his bowling hand on Friday, making way for fast bowler Rahat Ali.
Asked if Pakistan could bring in a third spinner in Bilal Asif cleared of suspect bowling action on Friday Misbah replied: “We have been thinking about it But the pitch doesn’t look like that sort of a turner where you can go with three spinners.”
England, who were routed 3-0 by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates three years ago, are likely to bring in middle-order batsman James Taylor for Jos Butler, who has failed as wicket-keeper/batsman, managing just 34 in four innings.
If that happens, Jonny Bairstow will keep wicket while seamer Mark Wood will be rested with an ankle problem.
Skipper Alastair Cook said changes would be decided later, with a third spinner Samit Patel in the reckoning as England already have three pacers in James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes.
“That’s the major issue we have got to make,” said Cook. “So we have to decide 24 hours later, it’s really easy after the game, in hindsight that you made the right decision and it will be a tough call.”
If England, currently third in the rankings, lose the series 2-0 they will drop to as low as sixth.