Broad and Anderson were simply outstanding on Day One. Between them they bowled twenty eight miserly overs. The Sultan of Stinginess and the Prince of Parsimony picked up six wickets for thirty runs. Ben Stokes meanwhile had to be helped from the field after damaging his shoulder picking up his first injury for his country since breaking his hand on a locker in the West Indies. Like many red heads, his cuffs then matched his collarbone now. Pakistan were whittled out for 238. Could England draw the series?
|Jimmy and Stuey...outstanding|
England batted and too many of our batsmen got in without going on to get a large, match defining score. Cook got 49, Bell got 40, Taylor batted very well for his 76 and Samit and Jonny got 43 and 42 respectively. A batsman will get his fair share of good balls early, and also his fair share of low scores, so when he gets in he has to "go big" as the professionals say. It tells the story of the series. England may have led by seventy odd, but batting last on this was always going to be tricky.
So when Pakistan batted again Mohammed Hafeez showed them the way and became the fifth Pakistan hundred maker in this series compared to the solitary one from England, via their skipper. He batted, he rode his luck, he was dropped, he played some decent shots but the end result was that he scored runs. 151 of them to be precise. England's spinners looked like Daniel Flynn at Old Trafford a few years ago; toothless.
Pakistan set England a tricky target of 280 and we got nowhere near. Ali blasted away initially but as soon as the spinners came on, like all the English batsmen he read the slow bowlers like an Essex girl getting through a Kafka novel. Essex man Cook meanwhile ground it out. The middle order were swept away. Numbers three, four, five, six and seven contributed a mere eight runs between them. Yes that's right, eight. The amount of legs that a spider possesses, as Babar, Shah and Malik, in his last Test before retirement spun a web that tangled the heart of the English batting. On the eve of the anniversary of when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament, England combusted.
Despite Cook blockading like a French trucker in Dieppe, the end was nigh and when he and Stokes were both stumped Pakistan had won by 127 runs, and with it the series 2-0.
Firstly, Pakistan fully deserved it. They were better than us in all formats of the game. They looked like the side of the eighties with some formidable batting led by a streetwise skipper. Throw in a bowler of serious pace and a wily leg spinner in the Abdul Qadir mode, you can see the comparisons. For them to reach number two in the world rankings despite not being allowed to play at home is a serious achievement.
As for England, they now languish at number six in the rankings and serious questions have to be asked of the selectors. Many on the twittersphere say how well England battled, how they fought hard etc but that won't wash with me. If the road of mediocrity is the way forward, then we have the wrong men in charge.
Moeen Ali is not an opening bat for as long as I have a hole in my arse. Compton should have got the gig in my book but it seems that he, Robson, Lyth and even Hales are persona non grata in this set up. Time to chuck a youngster in - Tom Abell at Somerset or Alex Lees at Yorkshire should be given a go and given time, unlike Robson or Compton.
Next up Ian Bell has had more chance cards than a man playing a five hour game of Monopoly. It is time to draw a curtain on a decent career. I have been banging on for years about picking a genuine keeper and it came back to bite us on the bum here with Bairstow dropping a catch and missing a stumping. Bairstow should be given a run as a batsman but England have to get rid of this ridiculous predilection that everyone must be able to bat. Put the best men in the specialist roles regardless. We only have a few out and out proper keepers in England - Foster, Simpson, Wallace and Read. None of them are anywhere near the England set up for various reasons.
|Bell...last chance saloon?|
As for spin, well have a read of my piece in The Cricket Paper tomorrow. We have to do something in this country or it will get worse. I don't blame any of these three as they tried their best, but Pakistan won this series as their spinners were miles better than ours. Our system is not producing spin bowling and that is a serious indictment on the corridors of power in this country.
England also don't take their chances and good sides do that. This series was littered with dropped catches and Bell's drops in the first Test were series defining. We deserve to be sixth in the world because we only have four world class players in the team. We now face the side who are number one.
England may have battled hard here but in the end quality shone through. Dale Steyn is probably having wet dreams right now.
It could well be carnage in Cape Town.