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Misbah, Younus in spotlight as Pakistan look to bounce back

3Pakistan hope the return of skipper Misbahul Haq and experienced batsman Younus Khan will help them bounce back on the miserable tour of Bangladesh when a two-Test series opens in Khulna on Tuesday (today). The tour has been a nightmare for the Pakistanis so far, with a 3-0 whitewash in the one-day series being followed by their first-ever defeat to Bangladesh in a Twenty20 international.

The two senior players were not part of the limited-overs squad with Misbah, who turns 41 next month, having quit one-day cricket after the World Cup and Younus, 37, not selected. Younus is only 506 runs away from overtaking Javed Miandad’s tally of 8,832 runs as Pakistan’s leading Test scorer and holds the Pakistan record of 28 Test centuries. “They are very experienced and Pakistan has usually done well when they are around,” said 19-year-old batsman Sami Aslam. “Both are world-class players and they are sure to make the difference in the series.”

Pakistan, who fielded a new-look side in the one-day series retaining just four of the squad who played in the World Cup, have selected nearly the same Test squad that beat Australia 2-0 and drew with New Zealand 1-1 in the United Arab Emirates before the World Cup. Ranked only eighth in one-day cricket, Misbah’s squad are fourth behind South Africa, Australia and England in the Test standings. “Tests are entirely different and I am pretty confident my team will do better in this format,” said Aslam, who could make his Test debut after making a fluent 45 on his one-day debut last week.

A confident Bangladesh are looking to improve their underwhelming Test record, having won just seven and lost 70 of their 88 matches since being granted full status in 2000. Of the seven wins, five came against fellow Test minnows Zimbabwe and two against an under-strength West Indies side in 2009. Bangladesh have lost all eight Tests against Pakistan, but leading all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan hoped the confidence gained from the limited-overs wins would ensure a better showing. “I think this will be a good series if we can show the same level of play and confidence,” Shakib told reporters in Khulna. “If Pakistan have an experienced batting line-up, we too have a number of batsmen in form. And we have a better bowling attack and the fielding too is good. This will be a tight series.” Wicket-keeper Mushfiqur Rahim returns to lead the Test side in place of limited-overs captain Mashrafe Mortaza.

Ramiz rues Pakistan’s lowest point in cricket: Former Pakistan cricket turned commentator Ramiz Raja expressed his disappointment on the dismal performance by Pakistan in the ODIs and T20s. “Lowest point and very embarrassing to be honest,” Ramiz told a website after the team’s fourth successive defeat on the tour. He found the team’s limited overs approach “a throwback to the 80’s and 90’s” and blamed the coaching staff, led by his former teammate Waqar Younis. “I was hoping that the situation would improve but there is hardly any new direction given by the new coaching staff,” said the cricketer-turned-commentator. Raja was particularly disappointed with Saeed Ajmal who returned from a bowling ban because of an illegal action and managed only one wicket in three of the four matches, bleeding runs heavily. Pakistan lost four players through injuries in the limited overs series and will expect Misbah and Younus to shore up their batting line-up. Raja, however, reckoned Bangladesh would fancy finally beating Pakistan in a Test after going down in all eight previous meetings.

Probable squads:

Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar Taijul Islam, Jubair Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Shahadat Hossain/ Mohammad Shahid.

Pakistan: Sami Aslam, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younus Khan, Misbahul Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Zulfiqar Babar.