Whitewashed

I could put a spin on things and say that in the 1st test England were a bit rusty, in the 2nd test we dominated things until the final day, and in the 3rd test we just had nothing to play for – but that would be a load of bollocks.

Fair’s fair, a spade is a spade on this blog and credit goes where credit is due. And the facts are, that Pakistan comprehensively outplayed England over the 3 tests and fully deserved their 3-0 whitewash. 

No excuses, none of this rubbish about Ajmal’s action, it was a good old fashioned hammering, brought on by a combination of home conditions, good responsible leadership and an excellent well balanced Pakistan team.

It would now appear that there are 5 evenly matched competitive teams in test cricket, Pakistan, England, India, Australia and South Africa.

People will debate about who is better than who, but in my view they are all of similar ability. All are strong at home and all are decent in their own conditions, while some don’t travel too well and some can’t play at all in differing conditions.

It will be an interesting next 12-18 months to see if one team will emerge from the pack as the outstanding side.

Onto England, and I’ve said it on this blog for a few years now – if the batsmen can put the runs on the board, then the bowlers are good enough to win us the test matches.

Since Trott and Broad put together that massive 332 run partnership against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010, England’s batting has gone from strength to strength, that’s why we have won as many test matches as we have lately, and as soon as it starts misfiring again, this is what happens.

I expected our batsmen to struggle a bit in this series, but not to this extent. On the whole they all struggled, I half expected Trott and Morgan might, as they haven’t really toured in these conditions before, but the rest…

Bell didn’t know what end of the bat he was using, and he is supposed to be our most technically sound batsman, he must be embarrassed at how stupid Ajmal has made him look.

Pietersen can’t get to grips at all with slow left armers – this could be starting to become a fatal flaw for him, Strauss has been struggling for some time now, while Cook at least showed glimpses of what he is capable of.

I don’t expect massive changes in the batting for Sri Lanka, and in fairness they have built up some credit over the years and deserve some loyalty. I suppose only Eoin Morgan’s place will be questioned, and lets be honest the only alternative, Ravi Bopara, has hardly demanded to be picked with his performances, has he?

Onto the ODI squad for the remainder of this tour and I have no problem with Ian Bell being left out, he has no place in the middle order, so unless he is going to open there is little point in keeping him in the squad.

A top 3 of Cook, Bell and Trott probably wouldn’t strike fear into anybody, which is why I’m happy to see Kevin Pietersen opening the batting instead. I think this is a good positive move and I really hope England stick with it and give him and Cook a run together and a chance to really build a partnership.

Pietersen opening also gives him the chance to play himself in against the seamers, it would be a hell of a brave captain who gives his slow left arm bowler the new ball in 50 over cricket.

I’m happy to see Jonny Bairstow retained, and call ups for Danny Briggs and Jos Buttler, the middle order needs a hitter like Bairstow or Buttler, or maybe even Kieswetter for that matter. Kieswetter is a lucky boy to retain his place and needs to make a significant contribution in this series.

And finally Samit Patel, I would like to see England really back him and give him a run in this side to give him the chance to prove himself. I do believe he could be a really handy cricketer if things click for him.

Well Played Pakistan

I’m not going to come on here tonight and start writing about how bad England were as I don’t want to take anything away from Pakistan’s amazing result today.

I thought that Pakistan have been excellent in this test match and they thoroughly deserved their win. It wasn’t just the win that was impressive, but the manner of the performance as Pakistan comprehensively outplayed England.

I seen bits of the match and I listened to most of the rest of it on TMS. The thing that impressed me the most was the discipline and control of the Pakistan team, they are not words I would generally associate with a Pakistan cricket team.

They all seemed to be pulling in the same direction, they looked and sounded committed in the field, there was no stupid dropped catches and no reckless shots when batting. There was also no getting over excited and no erratic behaviour at all.

The team now seems to me to be more in the mould of the personalities of the impressive captain Misbah and the calm Younis Khan, as opposed to the recklessness of Shahid Afridi or the laziness of Inzy.

I have to say that this performance didn’t come as too much of a surprise to me (England’s batsmen did though) as I follow test cricket closely and have noticed how Pakistan have been steadily improving over the last 12-18 months.

Wicket keeper Adnan Akmal (the disciplined Akmal brother who can catch) did surprise me, he was outstanding. For me, he was my Man of the Match. He didn’t miss much behind the stumps (unlike Kamran) and he applied himself when batting (unlike Umar). I don’t think it would be too harsh to say that he looks the least talented of the three brothers, but by far the most effective performer of the three on this showing.

He dug in at a crucial stage on Day 2 when England were fighting back and then played brilliantly with the tail at the start of Day 3. His innings could really have been the straw that broke the English camels back, the extra 25-35 runs he got that he probably shouldn’t have been allowed to by England could have struck the mental blow that downed England’s batting in their 2nd innings.

Result aside, it was a bit of a disappointing test match, it was only really competitive on the 2nd day. That was a proper contest between England’s bowlers and Pakistan’s batsmen, the English bowlers must have wondered why they bothered busting a gut given the pathetic capitulation from most of the batsmen.

England’s batting was pretty poor, they could have been spooked by Saeed Ajmal, I don’t know. I certainly expected them to struggle against him, but he didn’t really have to weave any magic – apart from to Ian Bell – as England’s batting seemed to be petrified of him on Day 1.

Along with Ajmal, Umar Gul is a more than capable test match bowler (and a world class one day performer), but this attack wasn’t exactly Wasim and Waqar in their prime, there was no Shoaib Akhtar steaming in. There was no reason at all to suggest it would take care of England’s batting in the manner it did, so why did it?

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Selectors show Consistency

There is no real shocks in the touring party named on Friday to take on Pakistan next month. Some might say that Bopara’s name still being included is a shock, but one thing the selectors can’t be accused of, is inconsistency.

Ravi Bopara for Paul Collingwood is the only change from last years Ashes touring squad, and Collingwood had to go. It’s an obvious factor in all sports that instability isn’t a recipe for success, England’s selectors (at test level) have made sure that isn’t going to be a problem.

With regard to Ravi, any regular readers will know I’m not his biggest fan at test level. But at the same time I haven’t really got a problem with his selection here, he is been given every chance to succeed by the selectors at the moment in exactly the same way as Ian Bell and Alastair cook were, so from that prospective, the selectors are again showing consistency.

Maybe Samit Patel might have pushed him for his place as a batting all rounder who can bowl spin, but in fairness to Ravi, Patel hasn’t done enough to justify a place on a test touring party.

I’m not sure what James Taylor is currently doing, Geoff Miller said something about a Lions tour on the radio yesterday, but I’m sure a year playing cricket at a higher standard with Nottinghamshire (no disrespect meant to Leicestershire) will do him a world of good before he steps up to international level.

Apart from that the squad is as expected, I’m glad to see the selectors stick with Steven Davies, he was given a harsh lesson 12 months back and hopefully he has made the required changes to his personality (there was apparently a theory that he wasn’t vocal or aggressive enough behind the stumps), and there was no way on earth that Craig Kieswetter could have took the spot.

With his international experience and last seasons form Monty was a shoe in as the back up spinner, the fact that England have only named two in the squad suggests to me they are probably (in the majority of matches) planning on only using one in the team.

A show of just how strong England currently are in the bowling department is the fact that in reserve we have Monty Panesar, Chris Tremlett (assuming Bresnan keeps his place) and Steven Finn.

Tremlett and Bresnan played a major role in winning the Ashes last winter and both won’t even get in the same side unless there is an injury.

I believe that Pakistan will provide a stern test for England here, they seem to be finding their feet in the UAE, they also have a good mix of youth and experience and now have a settled team, and as a result are starting to put a run of impressive performances together.

In the past (in ODI’s in particular) England haven’t adapted too well to differing conditions. If they are serious about staying at the top of test cricket, this is surely a series they will be looking to win, or at the very least, not loose.