Third Test: Misbah-ul-Haq remaining tightlipped to keep England guessing about his line-up

Pakistan's Imran Khan during the nets session at  Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Pakistan's Imran Khan during the nets session at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
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Pakistan are playing a cagey game as they finalise plans for the pivotal Edgbaston Test.

The tourists appear likely to drop out-of-form opener Shan Masood in favour of the inexperienced specialist Sami Aslam, or a move up the order for No 3 Azhar Ali.

Either way, captain Misbah-ul-Haq was in no mood yesterday to let England in on their selection choices.

He did make one thing clear, however: that Pakistan, who need to put last week’s poor performance in Manchester behind them quickly with the Investec series level at 1-1, will not be victims of any muddled thinking.

“We are sure about who will be playing – absolutely no doubt – but I don’t want to let the other team know,” said Misbah.

“Keep guessing. We are clear in our thinking, and we know what we are going to do.”

Should 20-year-old Aslam get the nod – despite just one innings of 17 on tour, against Worcestershire last weekend – Misbah insists he will be ready.

“I think anyone who is here in the Pakistan squad is capable of that,” added the captain. “We expect everybody to deliver.”

He expects too that the stern words, spoken by coach Mickey Arthur after Pakistan’s 330-run defeat at Old Trafford, will be heeded.

“I think his anger is appropriate,” said Misbah.

“The players are also unhappy that, after an outstanding performance, you were nowhere in the next game.

“But you have to give credit to the opposition that they played so outstandingly that it put you out of the match.”

Pakistan could not stop Alastair Cook and Joe Root taking control in the first innings, and then batted poorly too.

“We need to really improve,” added Misbah. “We let them score heavily, especially on the first two days – and once the opposition score almost 600 runs, it’s difficult to come back in the game.

“After getting starts – 20s, 30s and 40s – we really need to go big.”

In the longer term, Misbah and Arthur stand shoulder to shoulder in trying to mould a team for the future and make a break with a sometimes difficult past.

On a vexed last tour of England six years ago, without Misbah, Pakistan were bowled out for 72 in their first innings here.

They arrived this time with a squad determined to stick together, and minus notable mavericks Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad.

Misbah said: “I think it’s important that we should set a trend – no one is bigger than the game. We have to understand that and be disciplined. No matter who the player is, even if it’s me and if my priority is something else, then I should not be in the team.”

The lows of 2010 do not trouble him either.

“I think if you keep the past in mind you can’t move ahead – obviously it’s a new game, new pitch and a different team,” he said. “So whatever challenges come before us... we have to focus on them, not worry or think about 2010 or before.”

As for the opposition, Misbah is understandably intent on limiting Cook and Root’s contributions – and exposing potential vulnerabilities elsewhere.

“In every team there are key players, and at the moment those two are in really good form,” he said. “They are the two pillars of their batting. Psychologically, that can give you an advantage and damage the opposition if you can get them early because others in their batting line-up are struggling at the moment.”