ENGLAND were yesterday doing their best to ignore the guessing game over Mohammad Yousuf’s late arrival for the second npower Test.

But neither Andrew Strauss, nor his opposite number, Salman Butt, could rise above the uncertainty which hung over Edgbaston and it will not go away until the teams are exchanged this morning.

Yousuf’s peerless record against England – the 35-yearold 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 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 – the last on March 5 – 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 yesterday, 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. He said: “We know he’s a dangerous player and a very good Test cricketer. If he does play and he’s jet-lagged, we hope we can make it difficult.”

England are not spending unwarranted time secondguessing Pakistan’s selection plans, or whether reports that Yousuf may have strained relationships with several of his prospective team-mates are accurate. “We’ve just got to worry about ourselves and leave the other stuff up to them,” added Strauss.

Butt will have a say in whether Yousuf is picked. But having backed his young batting line-up immediately after the first-Test defeat four days ago – hours before the PCB announced Yousuf’s call-up – he is in an unenviable position.

“It will be a management decision when we speak to him. It totally depends what condition he is in,” he said.

Yet Butt admits Pakistan will probably have to take Yousuf’s match fitness on trust.

Strauss has no such problems.

Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook are short of runs, but his biggest worry is the spectre of complacency.

“I’m concerned that everyone just assumes that we’re just going turn up and win this match,” said Strauss.

England (from): AJ Strauss (captain), AN Cook, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, PD Collingwood, EJG Morgan, MJ Prior (wkt), GP Swann, SCJ Broad, JM Anderson, ST Finn, TT Bresnan.

Pakistan (from): S Butt (captain), I Farhat, A Ali, M Yousuf, U Akmal, S Malik, K Akmal (wkt), M Aamer, U Gul, M Asif, S Ajmal, U Amin.

Umpires: M Erasmus (Rsa) and S Davis (Aus) Third umpire: T Hill (NZ). Referee: R Madugalle (SL)