Sohail Khan credits disciplined bowling lines for England success

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After Pakistan’s 75-run win at Lord’s, courtesy Yasir Shah’s 10-wicket haul and Misbah-ul-Haq’s century, the visitors were hammered by England in the second Test at Old Trafford. In order to turnaround their fortunes, Pakistan decided to make two changes to their side. While opener Sami Aslam came in for an out-of-form Shan Masood, left-armer Wahab Riaz was left out to make place for Sohail Khan in the line-up.

The right-arm pacer was making a comeback to the side, having played his last Test in 2011 against Zimbabwe at Bulawayo – where he returned with match figures of 1-81. His debut against Sri Lanka in 2009 was all the more forgetful as he went wicketless in his 27 overs, conceding runs at rate of more than six an over. Thus, in two matches before his return to the Test circuit at Edgbaston, he averaged 245.

Nonetheless, it took little for Sohail to make a mark as, in his fifth over, he managed to induce the outside edge off Alex Hales with an outswinger to get the opener caught behind. He followed it up with the prized scalp of Joe Root in the next over to begin England’s slide.

He finished with five wickets in the innings as the hosts were bowled out for 297 on the first day of the third Test.

“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,” Sohail told The Dawn on Friday (August 19). “The English batsmen don’t gift away their wickets. You have to think out of the box to get their scalp.”

Pakistan had arrived early in order to get acclimatised to the English conditions. They even played a couple of warm-up matches against Somerset and Sussex. While Sohail returned with four wickets against Somerset, he went wicketless against the latter. Notwithstanding that anomaly, the pacer feels that playing in those conditions helped him prepare better for the Tests.

“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,” Sohail said.

“Arriving in England a month ahead also helped me a lot to get acclimatized and understand the Duke ball better.”

Following in the footsteps of his skipper Misbah’s celebration, Sohail, too, did press-ups to celebrate his five wicket haul in the third Test. However, as much as the 32-year old wanted to prove his fitness, there were observations from the commentary box that he was tiring in his final spell of the match.

The pacer argued the criticism and said, “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.”

“I wasn’t tired at all,” he declared.

He finished with six more wickets in the fourth Test at the Oval, which included a fifer in the first innings to bowl England out for 328. His efforts helped Pakistan win the final Test by 10 wickets and level the series 2-2.

Sohail, who also put a 50-run stand for the final wicket with Rahat Ali in a losing cause at Edgbaston, says that he is working hard on improving his skills with the bat. “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 concluded.