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.

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