Thursday, 19 January 2012

ENGLAND MAULED BY RESURGENT PAKISTAN

Pakistan 338 (Hafeez 88, Akmal 61, Swann 4-107) and 15-0 beat England 192 (Prior 70*, Ajmal 7-55) and 160 (Trott 49, Gul 4-63) by 10 wickets

A dejected England trudge off after losing the First Test
Before this match started a few days ago, I was already mentally preparing my victory blog for England.  Who would have bet against them winning this match?  England, newly-crowned Test best, were put up against the world number 5 of Pakistan and lost.  Handsomely.  Embarrassingly.  Insert pejorative adverb here.

Over the last year and a bit England have had everything go their way.  They won the Ashes Down-Under in style and were unbeaten during the 2011 season beating Sri Lanka and whitewashing the world number one, India.  Pakistan, on the other hand, have had to endure disgrace and shame with the spot fixing scandal and losing talented players as a result.  They have also had to get used to a new home because of terrorist nutters attacking international cricketers on their way to the ground.

So, to the morning of the first day.  England captain Andrew Strauss won the toss and elected to bat on what seemed an excellent pitch for batting.  However, the former Radley schoolboy saw his side reduced to 94-7 without any of the top six reaching 25 or more.  Matt Prior showed stubborn resistance in reaching 70* but simply had no support from any of his peers.  England were eventually bowled out for a measly 192.  Credit goes to Saeed Ajmal, who finished with career best figures of 7-55.  England simply could not pick his doosra and when deciding to use the sweep, could not pick the length either.

Pakistan showed England how it was done and amassed a decent total of 338.  It looked like they would easily pass 400 at one stage where they were cruising at 283-5.  Chris Tremlett seemed to be down on pace and the Pakistani batsman took full advantage.  However, towards the end of the second day, England managed to snatch themselves two wickets leaving it almost honours even at 288-7 at stumps.

The third day of test will be one to forget for England fans.  Pakistan managed to accumulate 338 and that was probably England’s best part of the day.  England’s second innings reply went from bad to worse from the start.  Field Marshall Strauss went for single figures again, this time to Umar Gul in the fifth over.  Cook shortly followed with one fewer run.  Pietersen showed what a real wally he is by attempting a pull shot, whilst on 0, straight down deep square’s throat.  Nice one Kev.  Sometimes you show the maturity of a 10-year-old on Red Bull.  Only Jonathan Trott seemed to be able to ride the storm from Gul and Ajmal but played an uncharacteristically loose shot outside his off stump to depart for 49.  Some late fireworks from Graeme Swann was enough to make Pakistan bat again, but the openers polished the 15 runs off in less than four overs without any fuss nor bother.

In conclusion, credit must go to Pakistan who showed some ticker in this match.  The new captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, showed good leadership and good initiative with bowling changes.  Saeed Ajmal finished with 10 wickets in the match and in doing so, surpassed Graeme Swann to the third best bowler in the world in the rankings.

Here’s hoping that this knocks some sense into the England dressing room, who cannot afford complacency against a side who have a lot to prove and are willing to put in the hard work.  In my opinion the side needs to stay the same for the next Test.  There is talk of bringing in the extra spinner, in Monty Panesar, but the four-pronged attack has worked for England over the last year and a half and I imagine Flower and Strauss will be unwilling to change that.  The problems in this Test lie with the batting.  They simply need to do better.