The loss within three days by 10 wickets was almost as big a drubbing as one can suffer in Test cricket, and it could have been an innings defeat had the last wicket pairing of Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson not thrashed 25 to get England past Pakistan’s first innings score.
So why were England so resoundingly thrashed by what has been described as a “workman-like batting side” with a couple of decent bowlers? The pitch was a good one, if a little dead, which makes England’s batting display even more bamboozling.
I think that the blame lies in the following:
England’s batters have had a relatively easy time of it in recent series. They have played against a weak Australian side, a Pakistan side tainted by spot-fixing allegations and an Indian side who neither like the cold nor have a decent captain.
Pakistan have regrouped since their disastrous tour of England and under the impressive Misbah-ul-Haq have become an effective unit. England are not used to being pinned down by an attack and some of their shot selection shows that they expect to dominate bowlers.
The trouble that they found against Pakistan is that the hosts, in their adopted home, have a couple of world-class operators with the ball in Umar Gul (one of Sussex’s numerous overseas players last season) and Saeed Ajmal. Both men made hay against a careless top order who accumulated just 143 runs in the 12 innings of the England top six. Kevin Pietersen must be on borrowed time at number four, and Eoin Morgan could be looking over his shoulder.
The normal blame lies in the fact that the tourists are “undercooked”, but this could not be levelled at England who had beaten two, admittedly average sides in the run up to the first Test. The batters generally got runs and appeared to be in form.
Mind games from the off-spinner Ajmal, who claimed to have developed a new delivery for the series named the “teesra”, seem to have worked, but in actual fact Ajmal didn’t get much turn in the first innings where he did much of his damage. England haven’t mentioned this but Ajmal’s action is suspicious, and he has been banned in the past for his dubiously “straight” arm, but if Murali got away with it, why not Ajmal? It wasn’t Ajmal’s action that was the most suspicious though, only England’s shot selection.
The England bowlers toiled away on a flat track and they opted to go for a four pronged attack with three seamers and a solitary spinner, despite Sussex’s Monty Panesar impressing during a warm-up game. You can’t blame them as this policy has served them well, but England’s bowlers, apart from Stuart Broad, looked fairly toothless. Jimmy Anderson seems to lack penetration away from home and Chris Tremlett couldn’t extract the alarming bounce that usually serves him so well. Perhaps Panesar would have been worth picking.
England must dust themselves off and put this awful performance behind them or that number one spot will not be theirs for long. Will there be changes for the next test? Perhaps there should be, but in reality I doubt that there will be.
I would like to point out that two players at Worthing Cricket have scored centuries against Ajmal when he played in the Sussex League, firstly for Stirlands and then for Cuckfield. They are Ollie Rogers (107) in 2005 and Dominic Clapp (111), the latter while playing for Brighton and Hove in 2007 and off the back of a 60 the previous season. If Andy Flower and company need any advice, I’m sure that they would be happy to help.