Waqar Younis backs ‘instrumental’ bowlers ahead of second Test

Pakistan fast bowling coach Waqar Younis has dismissed suggestions that Pakistan would feel compelled to rest some of their fast bowlers due to the short turnaround between the first and the second Test. He said Pakistan hadn’t played Test cricket for five months, which meant the bowlers still had plenty of energy to get through the second Test.

“We haven’t decided who we’re going to play at the moment, but we haven’t played any cricket for a long period of time,” Waqar said at a video press conference. “It’s been five months since we last played a Test. I don’t think tiredness is an issue with the team. Yes, it’s very hot here, but it’s going to cool down in the next few days, and I’m sure they’ve got plenty of gas left the tank to tackle this Test and we’ll see how it goes after.”

Should Pakistan go with the same bowling attack, it will be a departure from the strategy England employed to excellent results during the series against West Indies. Stuart Broad and Sam Curran missed the first Test, only to come back in for the second with James Anderson and Jofra Archer sitting out. Anderson and Archer then returned for the decider, with the fast bowlers claiming 50 of the 56 West Indies wickets that fell during the series. West Indies, meanwhile, made fewer changes, and fatigue was at times apparent as the series progressed.

In the first Test, Pakistan opted for three seamers and two spinners in Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan, though the latter only bowled 11.3 overs across the match. Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Mohammad Abbas shouldered the fast bowling responsibility, and the youth of Naseem – combined with the pace at which the 17-year-old bowls – led to suggestions Pakistan may not want to overwork him. The fast bowling coach admitted Naseem hadn’t bowled as well as they had expected, but backed him to come good.

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“He’s so talented, and he’s so young. He’s still growing, his bones are growing. I don’t think he really bowled as well as we expected in the previous game, but he can really bowl well and take the opposition on at times. Because he’s young and inexperienced, it gets tough sometimes. When he gets fitter, he will bowl more overs and definitely be a force for Pakistan in the next few years.

“But when you talk about becoming a great, it’s really difficult to be sure about anyone. Pakistan have produced some really quality fast bowlers in the past few decades, so if he keeps himself fit and strong and keeps bowling, he’s going to get much harder to face.

“There’s always room for improvement for the quicks. But if we’d won that Test match, no one would ask questions about it. I don’t think we’ve bowled poorly but because we lost, there will be questions. In the series against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, I think the quicks did a wonderful job.

“In Australia, which was the first tour for most of the bowlers as well as the management, we struggled. But we’re looking to invest in these players who will be instrumental for Pakistan for a number of years to come.”

Waqar sympathised with the under-fire Pakistan captain Azhar Ali, who was heavily criticised for a string of decisions at pivotal moments on the final day as Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes’ partnership inched England closer to victory. Ali, who was given the job only nine months back, has also struggled with the bat of late, particularly in away Test matches, managing just 139 runs in his past 12 innings. Waqar said Ali’s vast experience would tide over across this bad patch, and that the added strains of captaincy could take time to become accustomed to.

“Being captain and playing in the top order is not easy. He’s been captain before as well, so he’ll understand that. When you’re in bad form, or have had a bad game, everything gets scrutinised. I’ve been captain myself so I know what he’s going through. You have several more responsibilities, and on top of all that, you have to focus on your batting as well.

“Like I said, if we’d won this match, then he’d get a lot more encouragement and confidence. But he’s a seasoned player who has played 80 Tests and scored runs in England before, too. He knows how to come out of these situations and I expect him to deliver in the upcoming two Test matches.”

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