If you’ve been paying attention, you may recall that prior to India’s tour of England in the summer we settled down over tea and cake and came up with some predictions for the series. We’ve decided to do the same for the imminent battle with Pakistan, except this time we’re quite grouchy having stayed up all night watching Australia win, so instead of offering everyone cake we beat them with sticks until they came up with something interesting to say.
The first to crack, unsurprisingly, was Nichael, who started rabbiting on about ‘second season syndrome’ and bombarding us with stats in an attempt to look knowledgeable. He thinks the two spinners – Graeme Swann and Saeed Ajmal – will be key, and whoever is more successful will go a long way to determining the outcome of the series. As far as England are concerned, his biggest worry is over the form of Eoin Morgan, who he claims has been unable to grind out important runs during his Test career so far. Presumably his backs to the wall century in Birmingham last summer is the exception that proves the rule. Ultimately, he’s conservatively predicted a draw.
Ajmal is a popular choice amongst the group as Pakistan’s greatest threat, but James, known throughout the site as one of the great contributors, isn’t sure spin will be as dangerous as is being made out. Reverse-swing and the ability of pacemen to take wickets with an older ball could be the difference in a tight series, so to that end Umar Gul needs to excel if the hosts are to prevail. On top of that, he’s convinced at the value of a good series for the openers, as the warm-up games demonstrated how batting can become easier after the first hour and how important a solid start may prove. Jonathan Trott will once again be vital if England are to continue building substantial scores – something which may well be even more important on the fairly flaccid pitches they will experience in Dubai than in Australia last winter. Despite these revolutionary predictions, he too has rather let us down by also going for a dull draw.
Our Indian friend Fyre has plucked up the courage to show his face long enough to give us a neutral perspective and throw his thoughts on this series our way. Looking ahead to last summers’ clash he was particularly miffed at the arrogance he perceived to be coming from English fans. That aberration may still be weighing on his mind as he has gone to great pains in proclaiming England’s attack as the most well-rounded in the world this time around. In also singing the praises of Pakistan’s spin options while airing doubts over both sides’ batting, he has cleverly hedged his bets. It will come as a great shock to everyone that he has then gone for…a drawn series.
The only other person not to predict an England win was Matt H, who manages to make up for it by coming up with a couple of left-field suggestions at the same time. Firstly, he picks Abdur Rehman as a potential surprise threat, as the tourists may concern themselves too much with the unorthodox Ajmal and fail to take Rehman seriously enough. He also fancies Graeme Swann to score a century at some point. Whether he thought these up while drunkenly commandeering the Twitter feed a couple of nights ago is a source of much debate among us.
A number of people ventured that unfamiliar conditions combined with a long break could cause England problems, but then promptly dismissed their own concerns by predicting the away side win the series. One of those was Matt L, who is looking to build on a strong end to 2011 when he foresaw India’s capitulation Down Under. His choice of Trott and Ajmal as key men was borderline plagiarism, but he made some attempt to claw it back by hoping the latter does well purely so we get to see some “funny, near incomprehensible interviews”.
The only Pakistani fan we could get to talk to us was Nev, who proceeded to cunningly drop a few controversial points into his predictions in an attempt to get everyone throwing gloves through our brand new windows. He doesn’t have great confidence in the hosts’ batting line-up, particularly as many of them failed to really cash in against some of the poorer sides Pakistan have faced in the past year. At the same time, he isn’t as smitten with England’s bowling attack as the rest of us, and threw a (not unreasonable) criticism of Swann into the mix to boot. He, like many others, feels Ajmal will have to bowl out of his skin if they are to have a chance, but his pessimism is why we like him and he picks England to grind their way to victory.
Suggestions for England’s key player were relatively evenly spread amongst a few of the most likely candidates, and nobody had the barefaced balls to pick Ravi Bopara. Ian Bell was the most popular choice, as he received a mammoth three votes. One of those votes came from Dan, as he had a go at making no unique points at all. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite make it. Not only was he the only one to express concern at the lack of a genuine part-time option in the England side, he was also the lone voice openly predicting this series to be more difficult than the previous three.
One of the other votes for Bell came from Al, who feels England’s middle-order could be the difference between the teams. He has reservations about Pakistan’s batting depth and thinks it won’t be able to offer much support if the tourists can take early wickets. He worries Kevin Pietersen may not be as up for this clash as he has been for Australia and India, while also not being a fan of Morgan either. He wasn’t finished there; the other player on whom he has painted a giant question mark is Swann. He agrees with Matt R’s point, which is that the Notts man was something of a bit-part player in 2011 and fell behind his opposite number in the rankings.
Only three people went for a Pakistani batsman as their key player, but despite two seeming to make an exciting new suggestion, they then both went for the same one. The aforementioned Mercules believes that if Younes Khan can maintain his 2011 average of 85 he will have put his team in a great position to win the series, while Anthony K put far less thought into it and spoke about broad shoulders instead. There’s a chance he may have been trying to tailor his predictions to suit the series ahead, as he expects a lot of attritional cricket over the next few weeks.
On that note, Carlos has doubts over how suited the pitches will be to producing results, and fears the locals may not be drawn in by the prospect of two foreign teams playing each other at a sport they don’t understand. He was, however, the only person to pick Mohammed Hafeez as a potential Pakistan star of the series, feeling he can contribute with both bat and ball as well as lending himself to all sorts of easy based headlines if he has a good game.
Saving the best ‘til last is not a motto we abide by here at 51allout, so we’ve left it to David G to contribute the final predictions. He confidently states that “fast bowlers may struggle to make an indent” before picking Stuart Broad as leading wicket-taker, then talks about “batting-friendly pitches” before following it with tales of how he expects “dusty tracks”. He does get some marks for beginning a sentence about Pakistan with “well, they’re Pakistan”, but that’s about it.
As before, we’ve saved everyone’s score prediction and men of the series so we can laugh at them all later. Remember, you can throw yours our way on Twitter @51AllOut, where we’re messing about most of the time.
Al: 2-1 England (Bell/Ajmal)
Anthony K: 2-0 England (Swann/Younes)
C the J: 2-0 England (Cook/Hafeez)
Dan: 2-0 England (Bell/Ajmal)
DG: 2-1 England (Broad/Ajmal)
James: 1-1 (Trott/Gul)
Matt H: 1-1 (Bell/Rehman)
Matt L: 2-1 England (Trott/Ajmal)
Mercules: 2-1 England (Broad/Younes)
Nev: 2-1 England (Cook/ Ajmal)
Nichael: 1-1 (Swann/Ajmal)