Last year England dominated Test Cricket and the New Year promised a tough year on the subcontinent, many would have felt that this year could define English cricket. They lost the first test against Pakistan but found had a chance to tie the series if they could bowl Pakistan out cheaply and knock off the runs. Things didn’t go to plan.
Pakistan essentially began the day 55-4 with Azhar Ali and Shafiq at the crease, having lost the captain and Younis Khan. The two youngsters rotated the strike in an attempt to build a lead while taking time out of the game, England began with Swann and Broad but neither looked too effective which led Strauss to call for Monty Panersar; it was a decision that paid off. The left arm spinner got the ball to turn and clip the outside edge of Shafiq’s bat, the ball carried to slip where Anderson took a neat catch low to his right. Shaifq made 43 before becoming Panersar’s 4th victim on his return to the team; England smelt blood in the water.
The next 10 overs were trial by spin for Pakistan but passed without incident. Strauss decided to turn to his premium fast bowlers with the new ball. Ali passed his fifty in gritty fashion but fell on 68 to a jaffer from James Anderson that bounced and caught the shoulder of the bat, feathering through to Matt Prior. Pakistan’s lead had reached three figures but the tail has no reputation for scoring runs, Pakistan’s last hopes for a decent lead rested in Akmal. They disappeared in the next over as he chased a wide delivery from Stuart Broad that flew into the slips where the chance was gobbled up by Strauss.
The innings was wrapped up soon after as Swann claimed the wicket of Rehman LBW and Monty Panersar claimed his five wicket haul as Anderson takes the an easy catch. The day got even sweeter for Monty as he claimed his 6th wicket, and best Test figures, as Junaid Khan tried to heave him into the stands, unsurprisingly the ball went onto hit the stumps. Meaning England need 145 to win the game and tie the series.
What followed by England was highly unexpected. The collapse that England produced was on a grander scale than the first test. A warning, what follows is high depressing for fans of England!
The Pakistani spinners again ran through the England batting line up, with poor shots, bad luck and decent bowling to match. This time however it was Saeed Ajmal’s partner in crime who did all the damage. Abdul Rehman produced a wonderful spell of bowling that saw him claim his best test figures and a six wicket haul.
Cook fell trying to work Hafeez into the leg side, as England tried to crawl towards their victory target. Ian Bell was next to fall in unlucky fashion as his forward defensive saw the ball drop and spin sharply back into the stumps before nestling on them and dislodging the bails in slow motion. The run of poor form continued for England’s middle order as both Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan fell in the same over to Abdul Rehman as the ball spun sharply, England 39-4 chasing 145 to avoid losing the series.
The captain Strauss and Matt Prior staged a mini revival as both passed into double figures, the only two batsmen to do so. They only slowed the procession as when they fell the lower order, including Trott who was taken ill, quickly succumbed. The combined score of Trott, Swann, Anderson and Broad was just two, which sums up the nature of England’s defeat.
The obvious aim now is to avoid a series whitewash, but how England are currently batting confidence is at an all time low. I think that changes are required in the long term if England are to compete on the subcontinent, players like James Taylor who can rotate and manipulate the strike are vital in those conditions. This will mean that players will have to be dropped, my money is currently on Morgan who has failed to impress since returning from injury. Also Ian Bell’s form is to be looked at as he currently can’t buy a run; I hope England stick with him as he is a classy player that the England side would miss.
The tables have turned on England, which will please India, but things have to change quickly as if results go against England the summer Test series against South Africa will be number one against two but not how it currently stands.