Moeen Ali has blown his cover in the desert, but is increasingly confident in any case that England can inflict a rare series defeat on Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Moeen figured in a century stand with Alastair Cook on his first attempt as a Test opener in the drawn first match of three in Abu Dhabi.
While he was there, Cook had a secret weapon, too – because his partner, well-versed in urdu thanks to his own Pakistani descent, was able to relay the hosts’ plans against the England captain.
None worked, even long after Moeen was dismissed, as Cook stayed put for almost 14 hours to make 263 and help give his team a shot at a surprise victory until bad light prevented them completing the job.
Pakistan may be wise to keep their plans to whispers when the series resumes in Dubai tomorrow.
Even so, Moeen believes England have achieved a foothold in the sand and may be about to become the first tourists to beat Pakistan in a Test series since they relocated their home matches five years ago.
“I think they are a bit more aware. They know we are here for the challenge, and have a good chance of winning the series,” said Moeen.
Cook admitted to some frustration after England’s near miss last week. But the manner of their fighback, the captain’s tireless double-century giving them a first-innings lead in reply to 523-8 declared, has spread self-belief through the ranks.
“It’s given us a lot of confidence and probably given Pakistan a bit of a nudge as well that we are here to be serious,” added Moeen.
“We probably caught them off guard a bit in that last session, but I’m sure they’ll come back stronger.
“It was a great effort by Cooky... just what we needed, a big hundred for us, and it’s great for the series.
“We know what he’s like when he gets one score under his belt – he rolls them out.”
England’s batsmen will face a new challenge, with Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah fit again after the back spasm which ruled him out of the first Test.
But Moeen does not sound too worried, even on a surface likely to favour ball over bat more than at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
“He’s obviously their gun spinner and the guy they go to to win them games... but we just need to play him as we would anyone, just get on with it.
“Batting will be tougher than Abu Dhabi, but we have some really good players of spin.
“I think Joe Root is probably the best player of spin in the world. So we aren’t too fazed - we are preparing well, and full of confidence.”
Moeen is a close ally of his fellow spinner, Adil Rashid.
The Yorkshire player recovered from miserable first-innings figures of 0-163 on debut to bowl England to the brink of a 1-0 lead with 5-64 and Moeen said: “I’m very happy for him. He took some stick in the first innings – but as a team we felt he bowled quite well actually.
“We just went out, got some food like we do every night, and just talked about how we were going to bowl in the second innings and maybe what he should have done. If his confidence is high, he’ll be good.”