After five months of (presumably) non-stop drinking, a massively hungover England have clearly lost all semblance of co-ordination and are unable to play spin bowling on a perfectly normal first day pitch.
While Matt Prior showed his team-mates what staying off the gin can do for your game, there can only be one choice for player of the day – Saeed Ajmal. Assisted by some tight bowling from his colleagues he ran through the tourists by cleverly aiming it the wooden sticks behind the batsman on a regular basis. This England side are generally good players of spin, but it turns out a year of carting a load of pretenders about is not great preparation for a genuinely top quality slow bowler. They also seem to have spent so long on the sauce they’ve forgotten what the club thing they’re wandering about with is for; five of Ajmal’s seven wickets were LBW dismissals. It wasn’t so much a masterclass in spin bowling as an exhibition in what happens when international batsmen are unable to defend for any length of time.
The doosra which did for Ian Bell first ball was the moment at which English fans collectively started to panic. It also removed any lingering doubts over how much of a challenge this Pakistan side will be. They have bowlers who can make something happen and threaten even when the pitch isn’t doing a lot, and England haven’t faced anything like that for a while now. The way Mo Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar went about the final hour of play was also something of a shock to the system, in previous series that sort of composed batting from England’s opponents has been unheard of.
England are going to need to shake off that hangover one way or another, and they’re going to have to take early wickets to stay in the game. One fears if Pakistan post a big first innings score the cries for Monty will reach a crescendo by Thursday morning. His heroics in Cardiff may have gone to people’s heads somewhat as even he may have struggled to salvage the tourists’ batting effort – though if Eoin Morgan plays too many more shots like that he may fancy his chances at a top 6 spot.