Cricket: England destroyed in spinners’ web
The discussion can stop. This England team may nominally be No.1 in the world at Test cricket but defeat in Abu Dhabi with a surrender in the final innings inside 37 overs, proves that, in sub-continent conditions against Asian sides based on spin bowling, England are just not good enough.
They can compete but, when the pressure is at its greatest with men hovering around the bat like vultures and a target to chase, England have no plan.
It can be simplified further by saying the England batting unit has no plan and is not good enough because, in ensuring their fourth-innings target was only 145, the bowlers once more proved their excellence.
All that is left is for England to go back to Dubai for the third and final Test and try to earn some pride by winning and making the score 2-1.
How though? Pakistan bowled well in the second innings but it was not inconceivable that England could have got the 145 to win. What happened was a collective brain freeze. The ball did spin on a wearing pitch but the strategies pursued by the batsmen were flawed at best and suicidal at worst.
The problem is that the review system, DRS, has nullified an English batsman’s first defence against spin, his front pad. With umpires on the pitch more likely to give lbw backed up by television evidence, batters can no longer thrust their front foot down the wicket with security. They have to play the ball with the bat but the skill of modern spinners, who turn the ball both ways with changes of wrist and elbow position means that is difficult. The only way to be sure is get to the pitch of the ball and that means dancing feet. Young players in England do not learn to skip down the wicket. They are coached to play from the crease but the modern game allows spinners to create pressure and take wickets in clusters and that is just what Abdur Rehamn, Mohammad Hafeez and Saaed Ajmal did.
Rehman, pictured, was the star, his probing left arm spin emulating Monty Panesar’s earlier efforts by taking six wickets but the difficulty for England was that the three spinners bowled in partnerships.
There was never any respite for the beleaguered batsmen. The rot started with the opening pair, who crawled along at one run an over. Pakistan developed a stranglehold and not once did England break it. Alastair Cook, so clinical in the first innings, was first out when an attempted push to leg was undone by the ball gripping in the pitch, the resultant leading edge lobbing back to the grateful Hafeez. Ian Bell lasted three balls before a defensive shot spun back to dislodge a bail and that started a disastrous ten-minute spell.
Kevin Pietersen scratched around for eight balls and was lbw. He disagreed, possibly believing his long forward stride should save him, but he planted his front foot down the line of off stump and brought his bat towards the ball at an angle from first slip to mid-on. When he missed the ball, the umpire had an appeal to judge and TV showed it was out.
Two balls later Eoin Morgan defended off the back foot with a crooked bat and was bowled. Rehman had changed the game. The match was lost there. Andrew Strauss scratched to 32 but should have been out earlier caught at short leg, a curious reprieve by the third umpire and the rest succumbed quickly. Whatever England’s travails, though, nothing should detract from a wonderfully spirited performance by Pakistan.
World cricket needs them to be rehabilitated and Mohsin Khan, the coach and skiiper Misbah-ul-Haq are doing just that with dignity and good cricket and this match has reminded all that Test cricket does not need the crash, bang and wallop of four runs an over to be exciting.
A cerebral, attritional contest laced with bursts of counter- attack can be thrilling. England need to find the counter-attack next week, though, if they are to avoid losing 3-0. They have a few days to banish the spectre of the Pakistan spinners from their minds.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West