England are doing their best to ignore the guessing game over Mohammad Yousuf’s late arrival for the second npower Test.
Yousuf’s peerless record against England – the 35-year-old averages 70 in 12 Tests – suggests he may yet hold the key to Pakistan’s prospects of battling back into a four-match series they trail 1-0 after their hammering at Trent Bridge.
The plot is much more complicated than that, though.
Yousuf, 6/5 to score a half century in the first innings, lost the captaincy and was given an indefinite ban by the Pakistan Cricket Board for his part in an argumentative and disastrous tour of Australia last winter.
He subsequently retired from international cricket, has played only two domestic Twenty20s in the intervening months but responded to an SOS to Lahore to fly out and shore up his country’s batting after their 354-run defeat in Nottingham.
Yousuf’s near 5,000-mile journey was then delayed until he arranged an appropriate visa – and although he was reported to have finally arrived in Birmingham by mid-afternoon on Thursday, there was no time for him to even have the benefit of an outdoor net before Pakistan assess his readiness to play.
There was the suspicion of a shrug when Strauss had to address the inevitable Yousuf questions – but the England captain wisely acknowledged too that his team can hardly underestimate someone who has been so prolific against them.
“It’s not a big deal, except to make sure we’ve got plans in place for him,” he said. Strauss and Yousuf are the joint favourites to get the most runs in the match – each a 7/1 chance.
“We know he’s a dangerous player,” Strauss said. “If he does play and he’s jet-lagged we hope we can make it difficult for him.”
Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook are short of runs. But otherwise, England’s biggest worry is the spectre of complacency – something Strauss is wary of, with some already predicting a 4-0 clean sweep against Pakistan which would be ideal preparation for the Ashes.
“That chat is very dangerous – and easy to slip into, just because we performed well in one Test,” he said. Those more confident (or brash) can back a whitewash to England at 11/4.
England are 4/7 to win the Test, which starts at 11.00am, while Pakistan are 5/1 to triumph. See the full match betting market.