|Event:||England in Pakistan 2005/06|
DateLine: 9th November 2005
Former cricket great Wasim Akram warned Pakistan not to be lulled into a false sense of security by England's poor form in the lead-up to the first Test at Multan starting from Saturday.
England go into the first Test after a six wicket defeat against Pakistan A in Lahore on Tuesday, a further blow to their build-up after their captain Michael Vaughan injured his right knee a day before.
"Don't get fooled by England's poor form in the lead-up matches. They are a mentally strong side and will be totally different in their attitude and performance in the Tests," Wasim told AFP on Wednesday.
England's much vaunted batting line-up, which excelled during their 2-1 Ashes triumph over Australia two months ago, failed in both the side matches since they arrived in Pakistan two weeks ago.
Even in their 52-run win against Patron's XI in their tour opener at Rawalpindi, England's top order comprising of opener Andrew Strauss, Vaughan, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen flopped in both innings.
Experienced opener Marcus Trescothick hit an unbeaten 124 and 38 in the first match but failed in the second.
Wasim said England looked rusty in the two side matches.
"This happens after you have a huge win. The Ashes win may have relaxed England a bit and they were out of cricket for nearly two months which rusts you a bit," said Wasim, regarded as the best left-arm paceman the game has seen.
Wasim, who took 414 Test wickets and a world record of 502 one-day wickets during his illustrious career, said slick planning is needed to beat a team like England.
"You need extraordinary planning to beat a team like England. Unfortunately our lead up to a series has always been haphazard and I don't know what sort of planning (captain) Inzamam-ul Haq and (coach Bob) Woolmer have done now," said Wasim, who refused to predict the outcome of the series.
"This has been the most asked question but it's a toughie. Pakistan in Pakistan are strong and England has been progressing well, so the team which proves mentally strongest will win," said Wasim, tipping England left-arm spinner Ashley Giles as the dangerman.
"If Pakistan prepares spin tracks then I think they would face a real threat in Giles who, even though not a great turner of the ball, bowls wicket to wicket and may prove dangerous," said Wasim.
Giles took 17 wickets in the three-match series to guide England to a 1-0 win the last time they toured Pakistan in 2000.
Wasim denied that England's batsmen will find it tough to handle spin in Pakistan.
"England batsmen would not prove weak against spin because they tackled Shane Warne very well in the Ashes against Australia so their confidence must be high," said Wasim.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 AFP)