Monday, 6 February 2012

PAKISTAN COMPLETE SERIES WHITEWASH AGAINST DISMAL ENGLAND

Pakistan 99 (Broad 4-36) and 365 (Ali 157, Panesar 5-124) beat England 141 (Strauss 56, Rehman 5-40) and 252 (Prior 49*, Gul 4-61, Ajmal 4-67) by 71 runs

Anguish for Flower and Strauss
The first Test could be considered as England’s colonic irrigation.  No major problem, but something to refresh the arses of the England side.  During the second Test, England suffered a mild stroke chasing down a low target.  A much more serious problem, but still not something from which they could recover.  In the final Test, however, England simply died.  The body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Pakistan.  Sound familiar?  Somehow I don’t think my mock obituary is going to catch on for future series against Pakistan to be called the Anglo/Asian Ashes…

England could not have had a more perfect start to this match.  England’s best seamers, Broad and Anderson, made early inroads into the Pakistani batting line-up, from which they simply could not recover.  They were bowled out in under 50 overs for 99 to give England a chance of gaining a hefty first innings lead to set up their first win of the tour.

However, as we all know with England’s batting of late, this was made harder than it should have been.  Only four batsmen made it into double figures with the captain making a useful, but inadequate 56.  Abdur Rehman, Pakistan’s hero in the last Test, claimed his second five-wicket-haul in as many Tests to dismiss England for a poor 141.

With a slender lead of 42, Pakistan began their second innings in a shaky manner losing their first 2 wickets for 28 runs.  This brought Azhar Ali and Younis Khan to the crease in what proved to be one of the most inspiring game changing partnerships that Test cricket can provide.  The experience of Khan seemed to inspire Ali and they both drove England into the ground with simple ruthlessness.  Both made centuries, not by smashing England out of the attack, but by manoeuvring the ball into gaps and taking irritating ones and twos.  The threat of Panesar and Swann had vanished thanks to the ease with which the two batsmen swept the ball.  Rarely did the ball pitch, turn, bounce and beat the bat.  They each made batting look easy and each deserved their tons apiece.  By the time they both had fallen, the damage had been done and England were set a challenging 324 to win.
Azhar Ali: 157 (422 balls)           Younis Khan: 127 (221 balls)
Strauss and Cook survived the 20 overs left towards the end of day 3, finishing on 36-0 leaving England under 300 to chase with two days remaining.  Nonetheless, neither batsmen made substantial runs in the morning, thus exposing the fragile middle order which failed to deliver yet again.  Matt Prior made a brave 49* but ran out of partners with less than a 100 to win.  Pakistan sealed the whitewash with a 71 run victory with the spinners taking six of the ten wickets.

A series whitewash like this warrants nothing short of individual hand-written letters of apology to each member of the Pakistan team for not being able to make a test last longer than four days.  Plus match fees of the England players should be donated to a charitable cricketing cause, perhaps along the lines of “coaching young kids how to play against spin” in order to prevent future dry bummings of this nature.

England’s batting on this tour has been woeful, with the seemingly strong top and middle order failing again and again to make any real stamp on the opposition.  Nobody stood up and took responsibility for their country and England allowed Pakistan to dominate the game when they should not have done.

England play their next Test series against Sri Lanka starting on Monday 26th March in Galle.  The Flower/Strauss combination will have to come up with something to instil determination to succeed within their batting line-up.  They are fine in the bowling department, in my opinion, with an abundance of talent and back up players.  On the plus side, England will not have to face a quality spinner against a Sri Lankan side who are still getting used to life without Muralitharan.  Nothing short of a series win in the subcontinent is needed to re-assert England’s place at the top of the tree.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

ENGLAND UNDONE BY SPIN - AGAIN

Pakistan 257 (Misbah 84, Shafiq 58, Broad 4-47) and 214 (Azhar 68, Shafiq 43, Panesar 6-62) beat England 327 (Cook 94, Broad 58*, Ajmal 4-108) and 72 (Rehman 6-25, Ajmal 3-22) by 72 runs

Abdur Rehman destroys England  figures of 6-25
I would have thought a crushing defeat in the Dubai would have shaken some sense into this England line-up ready for the second Test against Pakistan.  To an extent it did exactly that as the world number one Test side were well on their way to winning in Abu Dhabi, but threw things away in the last session.  Spin, again, was England’s downfall as they failed to chase a measly 145.

The Test started spritely for England thanks to the seamers Broad and Swann who did the initial damage in reducing Pakistan to 104-4.  Pakistan struggled to 256-7 at the end of the first day and failed to add more than one run the next day.  England set out to bat, knowing a large first innings lead could prove crucial in their chances of winning the game.  Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott made scores of 94 and 74 respectively but were not supported by others around them.  Broad was again the hero chipping in with an extremely useful 58* but England were eventually bowled out for 327 - not a bad score but considerably less than Flower and Strauss would have wanted.

England had Monty Panesar to thank for keeping Pakistan’s total to a minimum in the second innings.  The Luton-born spinner finished with figures of 6-62 in his first Test since that famous Ashes Test at Cardiff in 2009.

Having been set a lowly 145 to win, many would be forgiven for thinking the game was in the bag.  However, England never seem to make these small totals easy.  Nobody will forget the Trent Bridge Ashes Test in 2005 in a hurry where they limped over the line chasing 129.  The reason England struggled in that Test was because of Shane Warne.  The reason we couldn’t win in this Test was Abdul Rehman and Saeed Ajmal.  The two spinners ripped the heart of England’s batting and took all but one of the ten wickets between them.  England were humiliated: bowled out for 72, lost by 72.

England have lost the series now with only pride to play for in the last Test at Sharjah.  They seem to have underestimated the work that goes with being number one in the world.  There was nobody in the second innings who stood up and dragged England to victory kicking and screaming.  It just goes to show that it is possible to lose a Test match where a side has dominated every day apart from the last session.

Is it time for a change in the batting?  For now, I would drop Morgan and give James Taylor of Leicestershire a go.  The 22-year-old averages nearly 50 in first class cricket and is, in my opinion, the best youngster we have in this country.  The sooner he starts playing for England, the better it will be for the team and for Taylor’s career.

I would also stick with two spinners for the next Test.  Considering how well Panesar bowled in this match, it would be unfair to drop him.  Again, the problems lie with the batting and the inability to play quality spin bowling.  With the technology readily available to train against spin, England fans will hope for a dramatic improvement in the next Test.