England turns to Saqlain to help solve Pakistan spin problem

Alastair Cook’s men suffered a 75-run defeat inside four days in last week’s first Test at Lord’s, with Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah taking 10 wickets.

Adil Rashid (R) of England talks to Saqlain Mushtaq during a England nets session at Old Trafford Cricket Ground.   -  Getty Images

England is in a spin in more ways than one as it heads into the second Test against Pakistan at Old Trafford tomorrow looking to level the four-match series at 1-1.

Alastair Cook’s men suffered a 75-run defeat inside four days in last week’s first Test at Lord’s, with Pakistan leg-spinner Yasir Shah taking 10 wickets. Now England will hope to play Shah better at Old Trafford, where the pitch is likely to offer more turn.

It also have to decide whether to give a home debut to leg-spinner Adil Rashid, either in support of, or as a replacement for, Moeen Ali. Not only was off-spinner Ali, who has spent the bulk of his career as a top-order batsman, out-bowled by Shah at Lord’s, he also fell to him in the second innings when recklessly charging down the pitch.

England has now called in former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq as a coaching consultant at Old Trafford. While it will hope he can advise Ali and Rashid, his greatest short-term benefit may lie in tips about how to play spin.

England has been without a specialist spin coach since former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, now in the tourists’ camp, returned home in 2014.

Having picked a 14-man squad, England could field two spinners especially as both, all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson (shoulder) and all-rounder Ben Stokes (knee), have been passed fit after they each missed the first Test.

Stokes was looking forward to working with Saqlain, who took four for 74 when Pakistan beat England by 108 runs in the second Test at Old Trafford in 2001.

“You’ve got to use the knowledge of the people you’re lucky enough to have come in and work with you,” said Stokes. “It would be silly if the batsmen didn’t try to get anything out of him, pick his brains and ask how the guys who were successful against him played.”