England follow up their inept first innings batting performance with an even more inept one second time around, allowing Pakistan to complete a very comfortable win inside three days.
Pakistan’s bowlers again worked as a unit, with none of the English batsmen able to release the pressure, at least until Broad and Swann let loose at the very end. While Saeed Ajmal finished the match with a very impressive ten-wicket haul, it was Umar Gul who set the ball rolling, blowing away the top order to basically finish the game as a contest. Two wickets to legside strangles probably weren’t in the pre-match plans, but it was that sort of game for Pakistan, with (almost) everything falling into place.
Aside from their efforts with the ball, there were also further encouraging signs with the bat: Adnan Akmal making a very useful 61 to stretch Pakistan’s lead before taking four catches. A wicketkeeper with the ability to catch the ball has been a glaring omission from Pakistan’s side for many years but it looks like they might finally have got around to picking a decent Akmal, at the third time of trying.
We’ve generally been big supporters of the UDRS – when done well it adds an extra level of drama, as well as ensuring that the right decision is made – but today wasn’t a great day for the electronic umpire. In two cases (the dismissals of Saeed Ajmal and Andrew Strauss) the pictures from Hotspot were distinctly unhelpful, resulting in decisions that pleased no-one, least of all the batsmen involved. This was then followed up by some bizarre LBW predictions from the local brand of Hawkeye that seemed to have been randomly drawn on with a felt-tip pen.
In many ways, we’ve actually avoided picking a moment of the day altogether. Still, we weren’t the only ones unable to pick anything today.
In the absence of any cricket, with even the Big Bash taking a day off, we’ll probably be having a bit of a lie-in. The England team are unlikely to have such a luxury, as the batsmen will presumably be hauled from their beds by a livid Graham Gooch. And rightly so: in isolation, restricting Pakistan to less than 350 in their first innings was a decent effort by the bowlers. It was two genuinely abysmal batting performances that cost them the match, with poor shot after poor shot. A complete rethink of how to bat in these conditions will be needed if they’re to avoid relying on cheap ‘we’ll beat you when we play you at home’ jibes to try and cover their problems.
In terms of selection, expect Monty Panesar’s name to be thrown around over the next few days. It’s hard to argue that his bowling won’t help England’s cause but we reckon Steven Finn is more likely to appear on the teamsheet for Abu Dhabi, in place of the disappointing Chris Tremlett. Unless England are brave enough to go with five bowlers, with Eoin Morgan the (deserved) fall guy, but that seems somewhat unlikely.
For Pakistan there are no such problems. They’ll look for more of the same in Abu Dhabi on what may be an even flatter pitch. The only change may be if Aizaz Cheema’s hamstring injury rules him out, in which case Wahab Riaz will resume hostilities with Jonathan Trott. It’s unlikely to disrupt their approach and after a result like that, who could blame them?