LAHORE: Former Test batsman Zaheer Abbas said England are not unbeatable but every selected player of Pakistan will have to perform outstandingly if they [Pakistan] want to overcome the challenge of England in the upcoming three-Test match series, starting from Aug 5 at Manchester.

Talking to Dawn from England late on Monday, Zaheer, who celebrated his 73rd birthday in quarantine in England last week, said: “The morale of England is high after staging a comeback from one down to levelling the series by winning the second and having the upper hand in the ongoing third Test, too. The return of their captain Joe Root has totally changed the scenario in favour of the hosts, while leading wicket-taker Stuart Broad performed brilliantly to play a vital role for England in the series.

“Yes tough challenges lie ahead for Pakistan but if every player performs to his full potential, we can prove to be the dark horse for the home team,” said Zaheer, who played 78 Tests for Pakistan, scoring 5062 runs, averaging 44.79. Also popularly known as Asian Bradman, Zaheer has also played 62 One-day Internationals scoring 2572 runs at an average of 47.62.

Zaheer, who has 12 Test centuries under his belt, including four double-centuries, two each against England in England and as many against India in Lahore, said both captains of Pakistan, Azhar Ali (Test) and Babar Azam (T20 and ODI) are inexperienced and will have to make wise decisions at the right time.

He also said that the decision to remove Sarfaraz Ahmad from captaincy was made in haste by the PCB. “Sarfaraz’s individual performance with the bat or gloves might have not been impressive last year but he has got a cricketing mind.”

“The nation, however, has a lot of expectations from Azhar Ali and Babar Azam to lead from the front to meet the challenges ahead,” he added.

“A well-experienced coaching team is with the young-looking Pakistan side and it will be a treat to watch how the experienced guys like Waqar Younis, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Mushtaq Ahmad infuse their coaching experience into the young lot,” he said.

“Actually the series is also a test case for Misbah, who, as head coach/chief selector, has done a good number of experiments in the selection in the past while keeping the upcoming series in mind. Now, Misbah won’t have any excuse in case of any failure in England,” Zaheer said.

He further went on to say that there was a lot of difference between playing a Test and watching it from the outside. “The Pakistani coaching staff must have noted the shortcomings of the England players while watching their series against the West Indies. How they assess their [England players’] weaknesses and cope with them is yet to be seen,” Zaheer said.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2020