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Mohammad Abbas prepares for 3rd Test Match

When the England and Pakistan players walked out for the last day’s play at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, on Monday, batsmen were expected to have edge over bowlers as the sun shone brightly.

Over the course of the 38.1 overs bowled, Mohammad Abbas exhibited why he was considered the key weapon for the tourists’ on this tour. The right-arm pacer bowled immaculate lengths and nipped the ball off the surface which kept the England batsmen on their toes as he took two wickets - Zak Crawley and Dom Sibley - for 28 runs.

The 30-year-old has the best average (15.93) and economy rate (2.34) for a bowler with more than 50 overs in England since the start of 2018 in Tests and Azhar Ali will be banking on Abbas to deliver a match winning performance to square the series.

“I stick to my strengths and assess the conditions by reading the pitch and the batsman.” Abbas told pcb.com.pk. “Though, I have had a good run in the UAE, I am enjoying the experience of bowling in England. The weather conditions here are conducive for seam bowling and the pronounced seam of the Dukes ball provides assistance to fast bowlers.”

The Pakistan new ball attack, comprising Shaheen Shah Afridi and Abbas, has troubled the England openers over the course of the three innings in the Test series. Shaheen has succeeded in removing opener Rory Burns twice in the first over (1-4 in the first innings at Old Trafford and 1-0 at the Ageas Bowl), while the hosts’ best opening partnership has stretched 11.1 overs when Burns and Dom Sibley added 22 runs in the second innings at Old Trafford before Abbas sent Burns packing.

Speaking about his partnership with Shaheen, Abbas said: “I am enjoying bowling with Shaheen. He is young and is eager to learn. During the pre-match practice sessions, we discuss about the conditions, our plans and decide who will bowl from which end. We understand that we need to take wickets with the new ball to ensure the opposition does not end up piling runs. When he takes wickets, I also try to do my bit from the other end as it was the case in the first Test.”

With what is a contender for the best delivery of the series as well as the English summer, Abbas bowled Ben Stokes, the top-ranked Test all-rounder, in the opening Test with a ball that left Stokes stunned. Stokes stood out of the crease to Abbas to counter the lateral movement, but a wobbled seam delivery, from around-the-wicket, beat him all ends up to rattle his off-stump.

Abbas later revealed that Stokes’ tactics of staying well outside his crease never perturbed him as he outfoxed the England vice-captain with apparent ease. “Stokes is one of the best all-rounders in the world and he has done well for England. We had a plan for him and I worked on the angles which disturb him. I came around-the-stumps right away when he arrived at the crease.

“He had stepped out of the crease to disturb me, but that did not bother me. Whenever a batsman comes down the wicket against me, I take it as a sign that that batsman is getting disturbed by me. I bowled in good areas and got the desired seam movement, which got us his wicket.”

This is Pakistan’s third Test series in England in the last five years. They drew 2-2 in 2016 and 1-1 in 2018 in their last two outings and Abbas is looking forward to play a role in ensuring the impeccable record stays intact.

“There is certainly a regret [of losing the first Test]. We played good cricket for three-and-a-half days and England won it by playing only two hours of good cricket. We have a great record in England … I am excited for the third Test and looking forward to give a performance which will help my team level the series.”