The 330-run thrashing by Alastair Cook’s men at the Old Trafford compelled Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq to make two changes for third Test at Edgbaston.
Besides young left handed opener Sami Aslam, who came in for wobbly Shan Masood, the skipper opted for pacer Sohail Khan ahead of Imran Khan which surprised the critics since the well-built pacer had been out of five-day Tests for more than five years and had not made much impression in the practice games on the England tour either.
However, Sohail did not disappoint his skipper and soon induced a nick off England opener Alex Hales’ bat to provide the tourists an early breakthrough in the 10th over. By the end of the innings, the hard-working pacer had grabbed five wickets in a dream return to Test cricket.
“My aim was to bowl consistently at my line and length. I had told myself to not to deviate from it and thankfully it paid off,” said the 32-year-old in an exclusive interview with Dawn on Friday.
“The English batsmen don’t gift away their wickets. You have to think out of the box to get their scalp,” said the right-arm pacer.
Sohail was on fire in his opening spell.
Eight balls after the first blow, he inflicted another dent on England when he had prolific Joe Root caught in the slips for just three.
That was a prized wicket since the top England batsman had plundered a brilliant 254 in his last Test match at Old Trafford and had looked supremely confident throughout.
“I had done my homework about their [England batsmen] strengths and weaknesses. All I did was bowl in the right areas. Of course, there were runs taken off me because they are fine players, but bowling a tight length reaped me a lot of success,” said Sohail.
“Arriving in England a month ahead also helped me a lot to get acclimatized and understand the Duke ball better.”
His surreal return to Test cricket was hailed by one and all and certainly gave Pakistan hope after spearhead Wahab Riaz had failed to make an impact in the earlier two Tests.
Sohail, who is aiming to cement his place in all three formats, termed his current form as the “peak time of his career”.
And Edgbaston was not the first instance where he had made a strong return to international cricket.
During the ICC World Cup 2015, the Malakand-born pacer picked a superb five-for in his One-Day International return against India.
Prior to the mega event, he turned screws on Virat Kohli during an interview when he said that the Indian batsman is a “lion only in his home conditions“.
Reminiscing the moment, Sohail said: “Kohli is a big player and God has given him respect that he enjoys today. But, my aim is to bring laurels for my country so I don’t see who is batting in front of me when I am bowling. My aim is to get them out.
“I respect everyone, but I leave that respect aside once I enter the ground. On the field they are all the same for me.”
Sohail, like many of his teammates, celebrated his five-for at Edgbaston with a round of push-ups and looked fit and confident.
“The pushups I did (with a clap in between) were hard and not everyone can do them. I wanted to prove my fitness to the world that even after bowling long spells, I could still go on.”
However, the experts felt the other way about the bowler’s fitness. The commentators in the match observed that he was looking tired after his last spell of the day.
“I wasn’t tired at all,” clarified Sohail.
“I was bowling with the new ball. In English conditions you need to give more air to the ball so it can swing. It is all about the understanding of the game. Bowling is not only about hammering short-pitched balls at the batsmen or generating pace. It is about varying your pace according to the situation,” argued Sohail.
During the dying moments of the Edgbaston Test, Sohail also displayed his prowess with the bat to put up a brisk 50-run stand with Rahat Ali for the last wicket.
When asked about his future plans, Sohail said that he has been working on his batting and aims to join the ranks of all-rounders.
“I am working on my batting these days. I aim to become a successful all-rounder since modern-day cricket demands from a player to be on top in all facets of the game. I have also been scoring runs in the domestic circuit,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2016