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Beating the batsmen's blues

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Sam Sheringham | 17:01 UK time, Friday, 20 January 2012

Your bat feels like a pipe-cleaner, the ball looks as small as a marble and scoring runs is like finding happy hour in a desert.

Masters of their craft in recent times, England’s batsmen resembled hapless amateurs in the first Test against Pakistan in Dubai.

Bamboozled by the variations of off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, the top six made just 143 runs between them in two innings as England were skittled for 192 and 160 in a chastening 10-wicket defeat.

With the second Test in Abu Dhabi starting on Wednesday, England have precious little time to put things right and justify their position as the world’s top-ranked side.

 Ian Bell survived just 16 balls over two innings in the opening Test. Photo: AP

So how do you recover from such a humbling experience and produce the goods when your touch has deserted you?

“You’ve got to remind yourself that you are a good player,” says former captain Alec Stewart, who played a record 133 Tests for England between 1990 and 2003.

“I used to put on a video of a match in which I played well and remind myself of what I could do. 

“One bad game, and one bad innings, doesn’t turn you into a shocking player. The majority of that top six have a very good 12 months behind them.

“They just need to stay relaxed. If you are going through a poor run of form it is natural to become tense and on edge. Sometimes it just takes one ball that you put away and then you are off and running again.”

Perhaps the most alarming aspects of England’s batting display in Dubai were the abject showings from Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen.

The prolific trio, who scored nine centuries and five double-hundreds between them in England’s previous 12 Tests, failed to reach double figures in either innings.

Cook scrambled eight runs from 61 balls, Bell twice failed to read Ajmal’s doosra, while Pietersen was lured into a false shot by Ajmal in the first innings and mindlessly pulled to deep square-leg in the second.

According to Mike Gatting, who averaged 50.7 over the 13 Tests he played in India, the key to success in alien conditions is to treat the pitch, and the opposition, with respect.

“The first two or three overs are the most important,” he says. “You have to be confident that you can get through those first 18 balls.

“Whatever method you wish to use, whether it is using your feet or playing off the back foot, you have to do it in a way that is comfortable to you. And when you get in, you need to make sure you stay in. 

“You need to have a game plan. A good solid forward defensive can be a positive statement of your intent to occupy the crease.”

With mastering Ajmal potentially the key to the series, England’s batsmen have been spending plenty of time under the spell of “Merlyn”, a bowling machine that purports to be able to replicate any spinner’s delivery.

But, in Stewart’s opinion, there is a limit to Merlyn’s effectiveness when a batman is trying to unravel the mysteries of Ajmal.

“Merlyn is better than nothing because at least they are practising, but the downside is that you are not actually seeing the bowler’s hand,” he says.

“Ajmal is tricky because he bowls both his doosra and his off-spinner with a scrambled seam.

“With Graeme Swann’s regulation off-spinner you can see that the angle of the seam stays the same all the way down the pitch, so you also have time to pick it as it is coming towards you.

“If it’s a scrambled seam for both the doosra and the off-spinner, it makes it harder because you are having to pick it out of the hand.

“In my day, we would work as a team, looking at how to combat someone like Anil Kumble. Does he do anything differently? Does he have his fingers in a slightly different place when he spins the ball?

“With all the technology on hand nowadays I’d like to think they are analysing everything they can and adjusting their techniques accordingly.”

Saeed Ajmal

Saeed Ajmal's first-innings figures of 7-55 included five lbws. Photo: Getty Images

Gatting believes England’s best approach to Ajmal is to play the ball late and endeavour to disrupt his rhythm. He points to the example of left-hander Graham Thorpe, who averaged 61 in England’s back-to-back series wins in Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the winter of 2000-01.

“If you’ve got a good spinner you generally try to knock him off his length,” Gatting says. “Thorpy used to play [Muttiah] Muralitharan off the back foot and played him magnificently well. He also played Shane Warne very well in his own manner.

“Ajmal bowled very well but he wasn’t under pressure. If the guys can get in, it will be interesting to see how Ajmal gets on.

“You don’t have to whack the ball out of the ground but if you play in a positive and organised manner, you should score plenty of runs on these pitches.”

Gatting is backing England to continue their habit of following up their last four Test defeats with a resounding victory.

After their previous loss in Perth in December 2010, England reacted by bowling out Australia for 98 on the first day of the Melbourne Test and went on to win the Ashes series 3-1.

“Dubai wasn’t very pleasant viewing but let’s not go overboard about it,” he says. “England have had a long break, whereas Pakistan have played a lot of cricket, have a team spirit about them and a guy who bowls a bit differently.

“Hopefully England will have got that defeat out of their system and do what they normally do when they lose a Test match and win the next one.”

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    It's simple, play it late and watch the ball.

    If you premeditate against a really good spinner, then you are getting yourself out.

  • Comment number 2.

    The top order made Ajmal look a hell of a lot better than he is. Forgot the 'teesra' thats just tosh, he's only got 3 deliveries, the off spinner, the one that goes straight on, and the doosra which barely turns off straight.

    I'd still back England to come back and win the series though, but it is hard to criticise when you've become the number 1 team in the world, but at times, not having a genuine all rounder is leaving us 1 bolwer short. If Bresnan was fit, i'd bring him in for KP. But the selectors would never make such a bold move.

  • Comment number 3.

    It was always going to be difficult both from a psychological viewpoint and a technical one. I really think the problem was psychological, rather than reading Ajmal, moving feet etc. Prior knuckled down and worked extremely hard for his runs, as did Hafeez and Misbah. None of the England top 6 seemed to be prepared to show some application and got out to some truly terrible shots.

    Not only that, but the smart money was on Pakistan because they have been playing so well. I expect England to do better in the 2nd test, but that alone won't guarantee them a win.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Pietersen needs dropping. He's needed dropping for about 3 years.

    Not because we have someone better to replace him, or because his averages have been particularly atrocious, but because of his "That's just the way I play" nonsense.

    I can't help feeling that if he'd been dropped when that first started, we'd have a much better Kevin Pietersen at our disposal today. His attitude means he's delivering on about 50% of his talent these days, and even if that's as good as the rest of the team at 100%, it's still a waste.

  • Comment number 6.

    Monty should definitely play, and definitely won't. And thus the chance of a series win will go down the drain.

    Incidentally, how long has it been now since the Test team ranked No 1 in the world actually won a Test match? It does seem to be turning into something of an albatross.

  • Comment number 7.

    DRS has shift the balance of power towards the spinners. You can no longer use the long stride and pad as a defence. In the past we combined this with the slog sweep to negate spin.

    England need to be more positive in attack & defence make Pakistan change their approach.

  • Comment number 8.

    How to read a Doosra. Its simple:
    If his arm is illegally bent, its a doosra. If not, its not...

    Can you review on bent arms?

  • Comment number 9.

    Whilst i would like to see Monty get a game as I think he offers something a little different to Swann and therefore will arguably make Swann more effective as well as causing problems himself i think its unlikely.

    Its counter-intuitive the weaken the batting line up following a performance like the one we saw in the 1st test and there was nothing wrong with the performance of the bowlers in Dubai, hence the reason i doubt Monty will paly

    As for the batting, it was terrible but there doesnt seem to be a great deal of knee jerking so far which is good to see, though i'm sure those comments aren't too far away. I think a bit of rustyness combined with over confidence (Not compalcency) was the reason for the abject showing. Those batsmen are all capable of scoring runs against the Pakistan attack and i expect them to do so as a unit in the next test.

    I dont particularly rate the Pakistan batting line up and i think that England can take 20 wickets, even on a flat wicket purely by bowling like and lenght, perhaps getting the new ball to do a bit but generally just keeping it tight

  • Comment number 10.

    Only two Tests have been played at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi. Both ended in draws. In the 1st test over 1350 runs were scored and only 27 wickets fell.

    In the 2nd Pakistan somehow managed to bowl SL out cheaply, but SL batted for nearly two days in their second innings and secured the draw.

    It's a road. If England realise it's possible to bat against Ajmal it will be a draw. If not, a comfortable Pakistan win.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think Because the Ozzies did so well, every team from now to the near future will be expected to hammer and steam roll teams all the time. This clearly won't happen, or won't happen in a very long time and we should give the England team a break, everyone has a bad game or two.

    Only worry is this; England's wins have recently been against teams with powder puff attackes, India, Sri Lanka, Bangaldesh and Ozzies. Pakistan and South Africa have good attacks and this will highlight our batsmen are not as great as we thought, and highlight how good our bowling is.

    This test match will be alot closer, with us winning a tight fought test.

  • Comment number 12.

    TimmyNorfolk

    Can you point to me the law that says your not allowed to bowl with a bent arm?

    I'll save you the effort you can't, the only illegal is straightening the arm with an allowance of 15 degrees because you can't see it by sight otherwise and all bowlers do it whether intentional or not. Whether Ajmal does that or not is open to debate but the ICC says he doesn't. I should point out when this was investigated bowlers with supposed brilliant actions (Glen McGrath) were discovered to be among the worst offenders.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Whilst i would like to see Monty get a game as I think he offers something a little different to Swann and therefore will arguably make Swann more effective as well as causing problems himself i think its unlikely."

    Other than the fact that he turns the ball the other way.

    Seriously, Tremlett isn't going to be much of a threat on these wickets, and England may spend 2 days bowling at some point. Monty would be useful.

  • Comment number 14.

    i think it would be a good idea to drop KP down the order maybe at 6 and put bell and prior at 5 & 4.

    i think the resson why england lost is because england are used to winning and pakistan have something to keep the momentem going in squad!

  • Comment number 15.

    Obviously him turning the ball the other way is the main difference. I actually think that whilst Swann gets plenty of revolutions on the ball Monty gives the ball a slightly bigger rip. He also bowls a different trajectory ball, less variation, you could almost call it a good seam bowlers eithic of plugging away putting the ball on a spot which is a good attribute in a game where wickets will probably be taken through attrition as much as anything.

    Anyway i'm generally in agreement about Monty, just saying I dont think it will happen, and anyway i'd want Tremlett in the team as well, i'd personally always want 3 proper seamers in the team

  • Comment number 16.

    Bring on the monty monster!

    I'm desperate for England to win, but was never overly confident there were going to win this series. Pakistan are a bloomin' good team...especially now they've gone all professional.

    But one thing i'm not happy about!! England robbed me of two days of watching cricket over breakfast. I was really looking forward to the fact that getting up for work would almost be enjoyable...got up early so i could relax and start my day in fine-fashion. Cricket. Bran flakes. Orange juice. Cup of tea. Slices of toast.

  • Comment number 17.

    I like Mike Gatting's analysis, and Graham Thorpe is a very good example of how to play top quality spin bowling and they don't come any better than Warne and Muli. If you watched Thorpe, he would only come forward on his terms and then play with soft and skilfull hands. To most delieries, he would ride the turn and bounce and play the ball very late. The problem with English batsmen against TOP QUALITY spin bowling is that they are wanting to push hard at the ball and given the DRS now in place, they can be lbw on the front foot a la Peiterson on several occasions.

    I do however feel that England were way undercooked. Why on earth didn't they go off to India prior to Dubai to get some practice in against spin bowling on sub continent pitches. So it all smacks of a little complacency, and the old saying is that you reap what you sow, or fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

    The shots that Cook and Strauss go out to in the first innings were lazy and ill judged. Lets not forget, the slow bowlers were bowling with a new ball so it was obvious that the shorter quicker ball would hurry through and they both got out done for pace playing poor cross bat shots. Pieterson goes through phases, I would make the bold move of moving him to 5 and promoting Bell to 4. I would prefer KP in at 150-3 than 50-2, he is then capable of taking the game away from the opposition. At 50-2, we often end up at 60-3. That said Bell failed twice in the first test, but at least he was dismissed by quality bowling. Trott's fine, unlucky first dig, abboration second. Morgan I think will be ok, lets give him some time.

    Back to our preparation - if EDngland were playing Aus or S. Africa in these conditions would they really have gone into the first test match having played one meaningful warm up game, and a leg loosener. The answer is clearly no, so one can conclude that they didn't feel this necessary against Pakistan, complacency indeed. What is the point of building team Englan with all of its backroom support if such a dim mistake is made with regard to preparation matches. Remember the Ashes 2007 ! Recovering will not be easy against a talented young side who have build up some momentum.

    Finally although it seems like sour grapes, I'm afraid Sajmal's action is illegal. Even if 15% is the law, he is way over that. Either change the law to allow throwing or pull the guy up, but you can't have laws in place that are being continually breached. The problem here is that it probably isn't that different from Mulleritheran the worlds leading bowler, who in my opinion should have been stopped following the infamous Darrel Hair intervention many many years ago. I coach cricket, and it places one in a predicament if you see a kid aged 14 with an action such as this.

  • Comment number 18.

    This result will only have left you scratching your head if you have recently bought into the never ending hype of the "best test team in the world".

    A fresh Pakistan with points too prove, turn up in a neutral venue in front of few fans against an England side now citing being "undercooked". Hilariously the last time we were exposed away from home it was explained away as "too much cricket".

    I don't remember any other genuine number 1 team putting these excuses forward. I find it embarrassing how over-hyped we are at the expense of respect to our opposition.

    Sam, look at your last three blog titles

    "England back to square 1"
    "England's lethal cocktail"
    "Beating the batsmen's blues"

    knee jerk after knee jerk

  • Comment number 19.

    Too much analysis of what was just a bad batting performance. It happens to very team. Sure, if it happens again we should worry, but let's wait and see.

    As for KP being dropped (#5), you do know he's averaged over 70 for the last 3 series, don't you? But yeah, let's drop him because you don't like him.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just realised #2 would drop KP as well. Bizarre. The only batsman under threat at the moment is Morgan, and that is only in the unlikely event that England go with 5 bowlers....which I'd like to see. The pitches are harder to bowl on than to bat on (at least in theory), and with 7 batsmen I wonder if, at least on some level, there is a feeling of, "If I fail, there's plenty of other batsmen still to come". Six batsmen (including Prior) is plenty in these conditions.

  • Comment number 21.

    For the 'drop Pietersen' or 'move Pietersen to 5 or 6' brigade, these are his scores from his last eight Test innings' (before the Dubai Test):

    175, 63, 63, 29, 1, 202*, 85, 72

    Here are Andrew Strauss', just by point of comparison (before Dubai):

    40, 87, 16, 32, 32, 22, 3, 0.

    I just think with all the KP criticism, there is a difference in how he is perceived compared to other players, which is a little harsh on him I think.

  • Comment number 22.

    Nice to see an article putting the focus on what the England batsmen need to do in terms of altering their approach rather than the hysteria of "Change the team!!!" in a lot of other articles (and indeed some of the comments).

    The batsmen were woeful at the crease but with the possible exception of Eoin Morgan (who is still relatively new) they've shown over an extended period that they're excellent players and that the selection is pretty much spot on.

    As far as the bowlers go I think they delivered the same excellent performance that has pretty much become their stock in trade - getting Pakistan out for 338 on that pitch was a fine achievement and would suggest that the bowling unit is pretty much fine as is.

    I doubt Monty would have radically reduced the Pakistan total (although he couldn't have done significantly worse with the bat than the top 6.....)

    The batsmen should be sitting down watching videos of Thorpe playing on the sub continent - playing back, with soft hands and accumulating runs with little dabs and nudges.

    Each and every one of them should be planning one long first innings stay at the crease.

  • Comment number 23.

    I think we have to reserve judgment until the next Test. Even though England have been much more consistent recently, they have still tended to put in the odd batting horror show. Quite often they have put it right in the same game so to fold twice so feebly is worrying.

    For some of the commentators to respond to the defeat by questioning Ajmal's action was predictable and disappointing. I hope England's batsmen don't get distracted by it. Personally I think the doosra action is a bit borderline but this is up to the ICC and the umpires. It is not fair on Ajmal for others to carp on about it if they don't decide it is necessary to look at it again.

    To me, England's problem was more one of approach than of technique. They were extremely tentative from the outset and felt choked into attempting daft cross batted shots when not set. They had all the time in the world, and calculated risks with straight bats were required. Hafeez did this and Akmal too a bit later on. Only Prior (and in the 1st innings Swann) had the right sort of approach, and it is worrying that batsmen of the calibre of England's 3-6 didn't cotton on. I still think they are too good to fail so abjectly twice. Only 1-2 of the top order firing is the massive difference between sub-200 scores and over 350 scores, which are the minimum we need in these conditions.

    A fair amount of credit has to go to Misbah ul-Haq, whose captaincy was outstanding in the field and created pressure from nowhere.

    I think the only change will be Onions or Finn for Tremlett, who doesn't look fit, but Monty should play too.

  • Comment number 24.

    Agree with many of the posters that it was poor application by a lot of the so called stars. Obviously batting to spinners with DRS is a much tougher proposition than it was 20years ago, but it can be done (Priors first innings showed this) and I agree Ajmal hasn't actually come under pressure yet.

    @17 "I coach cricket, and it places one in a predicament if you see a kid aged 14 with an action such as this"

    Ajmals action is legal as long as the ICC says so and if they make the rules stricter then I doubt there would be many bowlers who have legitimate actions. As for your point about coaching I think that's why teams like Sri Lankan crickets tend to be so much more entertaining to watch than England. We coach "natural" actions out of players in order for them to conform to an accepted style. Can anyone imagine Malinga's bowling action or Dilshans paddle scoop batting (both of which are perfectly legal) being done by an English kid? It would have been coached out of him and so we lose the "natural" cricketers who ask different kinds of questions. Even our own "maverick" Kevin Pietersen (who of course learnt to play under South African coaches) gets criticism from some quarters for playing unorthodox strokes like the switch hit. It's the kind of cricketing snobbery that I think stops us advancing the game and means we always seem to be playing catchup.

  • Comment number 25.

    Well England aren't going to make the same mistakes as they did in the first test. I fully expect them to win the two remaining test comfortably.

    Man for man, England are the better side. They just need to be more patient in their batting.

  • Comment number 26.

    @24 Coaching

    Think you're tarring all coaches with the same brush, modern coaching recommends that we work to the strengths of an individual. If you have any concerns you can always get the view of another coach. Particularly with young players, you should view their actions and style with an open mind.

    As a coach, player and (recently) umpiring I have come across individuals making a snap judgement based upon in a match. Rarely do the captains, players or officials involved deal with these situations with tact or diplomacy - self interest prevails and the win at all cost attitude.

  • Comment number 27.

    Did you know that Alec Stewart plays zero crickiit these days?

  • Comment number 28.

    @20
    It's all very well KP getting scores when everyone around him is, but when was the last time our 'premier' batsman really got us out of a hole? The Oval during the '05 ashes???
    I'm not saying he should drop anchor and play like Trott or how Collingwood did on a few occasions, but more often than the other batsmen, he's getting out to ridiculous shots. The way he got out in the 2nd innings was pathetic, it just smacked of a player who wasn't up for the fight and wanted to put his feet up on the balcony and accept defeat.

    At the end of the day none of the batsmen are going to get dropped no matter how badly they play, as the batting reserve we've taken on tour is useless.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    No one seems to want to "drop anchor" anymore. Is it because they can't or that the modern way of playing is to try and "get on with it?" The Aussies introduced the Blitzkreig approach when they had at least 13 world class players. Methinks they are reviewing that tactic, and maybe so should we.
    I think we have too many hot and cold players - we need a few consistent scorers who can occupy the crease to wear the bowlers down.

  • Comment number 32.

    #28 He saw the ball there to hit, he hit it, it didn't come off. Another day it would have done. I think it's as simple as that really.

    How many times have we been in a hole recently? Not many, so it's hard to judge. But that kind of accusation is always aimed at someone or other. Usually it's Bell, though I have seen Prior accused of the same thing as well (ridiculously). I've done a quick check on cricinfo for last year...

    3rd Test against Sri Lanka, KP comes in at 14-2 and scores 85.
    1st Test against India, comes in at 62-2 and scores 202
    2nd Test against India, comes in at 57-2 and scores 63

    Not much evidence there, but like I said, we haven't been in that much trouble recently.

  • Comment number 33.

    #31 That's Cook and Trott, surely!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Its all well and good quoting Pieterson's scores over the last 12 months, but this has been against an Australian team with no spinner and the weakest Indian bowling attack in many years (as is being proved in Aus now). Pieterson has struggled against quality spin for 3-4 years now. It was always going to be a major issue when then travelled back to the UAE for this series.
    The selectors need to be brave enough to pick Pieterson when his ability can be used but leave out and replace when conditions don't suit him.
    This applies to all other batsmen as I think there is a serious problem in the England team which believes it is far better than it actually is

  • Comment number 35.

    @greatwhitepathan
    "any bowler who troubles the english batsmen is a cheat according to the media", clearly not true, warne, ambrose, donald, kumble etc... (hundreds of them) never accused of cheating.

    clearly the use of the word cheating is clouding the issue with emotional baggage. the problem comes when cricket is seen to be applying different rules for different people. the fact that the icc seem to have decided on the '15 degree' rule purely so certain spinners can bowl a particular delivery doesn't seem to fit well with the common perception of bowling with a straight arm, particularly because spectators can clearly perceive the arm is bent.

    I would also take issue with the notion that wasim and waqar 'invented' reverse swing, they plainly didn't. any bowler of a previous era just called it swing. It was the close up television age which determined this to be different in some sense. The issue with them was that the ball appeared to be swinging more than would normally be expected. The subsequent revelations of former pakistani cricketers (including shoaib's recent autobiography) would appear to lend some credence to what the media was saying at the time.

  • Comment number 36.

    @34
    what is the evidence that pietersen struggles against 'quality spin'. I admit my memory's hazy on this point, but he did score lots of runs against warne and murali, who were considerably superior to any current spinner.

    what (who) is the quality spin he has struggled with recently?

  • Comment number 37.

    @18.

    We are number one because we played consistently well enough to be so. We recently thrashed India (the previous number 1 team) out of site having just beaten (very convincingly) a wounded Australia (who made great strides of their own in the series resulting in one punishing loss for England) on their own patch. Before that we drew against SA on their own patch with some tremendous performances and resolve and further back still we smashed the Aussies at home. This is the first really dodgy performance we have had in a long time (the loss to the Aussies was the result of some genuinely devastating batting and bowling) and it would seem that you are the one having a knee-jerk reaction to it when all of the former pros are less concerned. Come on England, back to basics and a performance will follow. I still think this team can improve - it's just the start!

  • Comment number 38.

    @29 "Mark my words - Ajmal will destroy England in the second test as well. If not Umar Gul will get them, if not Rehman will....."

    What is the point of saying things like this? How do you know? And if you're so confident should I be betting the house on Pakistan to thrash a very good test team again?

  • Comment number 39.

    To follow up Silk's post (#10), just two Tests at Abu Dhabi have already seen three double centuries scored at the ground: Taufeeq Umar (236), AB de Villiers (278*) and Kumar Sangakkara (211). Somebody on either side is expected to score a really big innings.

    Pakistan have lost just twenty wickets in the two Tests there. While Sri Lanka's bowling attack isn't always penetrating, South Africa are normally a decent bowling side. For Pakistan, Umar Gul took 4-64 there in October.

    Andy Flower described England as 'undercooked' after the first Test. However such is the international match schedule these days, most Test-playing nations go directly into the Test matches without the benefit of the practice matches which England enjoyed.

    Including the ODI series in India, England have been on a run of poor form recently which they urgently need to turn around. By contrast Pakistan are currently in good heart having lost just one of their last sixteen international matches (an ODI defeat by 25 runs to Sri Lanka in mid-November), and accordingly the most that I am expecting from England in the second Test is a draw...

  • Comment number 40.

    To be fair to GreatWhitePathan whilst he clearly is prone to massive exaggeration and hyperbole and nurses a burning sense of injustice and possibly even a colonial chip on the shoulder we (The English) aren't helped by the minority of ignorant, arrogant, idiots who seem to think that their eyesight is a clearer view of whether someone throws it than the clever men in white coats who scientifically analyse bowling actions to check their legality.

    Also i'm not entiely sure how his comments were deemed bad enough to break the house rules to be honest, perhaps talking rubbish is now against the rules

  • Comment number 41.

    @ aitchin

    I would also take issue with the notion that wasim and waqar 'invented' reverse swing, they plainly didn't. any bowler of a previous era just called it swing. It was the close up television age which determined this to be different in some sense. The issue with them was that the ball appeared to be swinging more than would normally be expected. The subsequent revelations of former pakistani cricketers (including shoaib's recent autobiography) would appear to lend some credence to what the media was saying at the time.

    Agreed, the 2 W's didnt invent reverse swing. It was another former pakistani bowler, Safraz Nawaz who invented the art and passed it onto Imran Khan who then passed it onto the 2 W's and so on and so ...

  • Comment number 42.

    #34 He seemd to have an issue against left armers for a while, but that was when he was going through his bad run of form after losing the captaincy and serious injury. And it was greatly exaggerated anyway. He's been successful against better spinners than Ajmal.

    The fact is, in his previous 11 Tests (which also included Sri Lanka) he scored 2 double centuries, a 175 and 5 fifties. So he's a million miles from being dropped.

    Meanwhile Morgan last year averaged just over 36, and he played against that same Indian bowling attack. So why should Pietersen be dropped before Morgan? (Strauss averaged 25, but I'm giving him leeway as Captain. For now.)

  • Comment number 43.

    Meanwhile over in Australia, the fourth Test against India at Adelaide gets underway in less than six hours. As usual there will be great expectations from India and particularly Sachin Tendulkar. However Australia, keen to extinguish the memories of an innings defeat to England on the same ground a year ago, may well win again comprehensively. It would be nice to be wrong.

    Comments on Saeed Ajmal's action to me smack of 'sour grapes'. He is no stranger to previous success, having series figures in just two Tests in the Caribbean last Spring of 116.4-37-246-17...

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    43: Sour grapes possibly but his arm does seem to be bent quite alot. Has he altered his action since the previous tests? If not then I guess it's legal.

  • Comment number 46.

    Pietersen doesn't really "struggle" against spin. He keeps getting out at long-on to left-armrest because he is trying to hit them out of the ground.
    It's insane to suggest dropping him because he occasionally gets himself out. More often than not he converts 50s into 100s and 100s into big hundreds.
    All batsmen have lean spells and good spells.

  • Comment number 47.

    Kevin Peterson needs to be dropped. Each time I see him walk out to bat I know he'll be walking back much earlier than we would like.

    I honestly believe England have had their first real competitive team to challenge them since before The Ashes and India drubbing. Australia were in a right mess/transitional period (however you want to look at it) and India had nothing in the bowling attack to trouble England.. only now after their Australia drubbing have they decided to drastically make changes.

    Pakistan present a problem for England. England haven't been challenged up to this point, in general, and have brought complacency into this series. Australia are guilty for bringing this into each Ashes series, but who can blame them after their dominant two decades of cricket? England reach number one and suddenly they're batting to save their positions - including Strauss!

    I have a feeling England will lose this series but come out firing for Wednesday. How long the fire lasts for this second test who knows. Expect another collapse I think!

  • Comment number 48.

    #47 Yeah when he scored those double centuries, I was disgusted he got out so early...even the one when he was not out! And as for that 175.....hardly worth walking out to the crease really.

    "England reach number one and suddenly they're batting to save their positions ". No, England reach number one, have one bad test, and knee jerking becomes the national sport.

    I agree thought that Pakistan are a serious test. Which is as it should be.

  • Comment number 49.

    the issue of bowling actions has not been cleared up scientifically. the studies, particularly at the university of melbourne, have shown how much straightening of the arm takes place (8-10 degrees on average), but they can't say scientifically what constitutes a 'fair' delivery. The guideline of 15 degrees that is in place at the moment is based on the conclusion, reached by an icc panel (not scientists) that 15 degrees is the point at which it becomes visible. That is a subjective, not scientific, judgement. It's a debatable conclusion, there were those who claimed to be able to see mcgrath's arm straighten in delivery for example. melbourne tests showed mcgrath's arm to be straightening about 12 degrees.

    I'm not calling for a ban for mcgrath, or ajmal or anyone else, but I do think this issue has been clouded rather than cleared by the ICC's arbitrary rulings.

    @zainster
    firstly, the idea that this delivery was 'invented' is a bit pompous, it's a swinging cricket ball, not the internal combustion engine.
    secondly, thomson, lillee, holding and a good few other bowlers claim they knew how to do it, so either they're lying or your comfortable narrative is lacking some details.

  • Comment number 50.

    Always too much cricket. Burnout. It's not always the playing but the touring and travelling to games that last 4 days domestically and series that last months.

    Typical boom or bust. Few weeks ago top of the world. Now in the dregs. After 1 game. Be careful there cricket heads; don't want it end up like the football!! :-)

  • Comment number 51.

    A lot being made of number one status but it is not that big a deal. Aussies are improving, SA have a great attack - both capable of beating England on their day. On their tracks I don't see us as being a lot better than Pakistan, India or SL. It is really competitive at the moment and a great time to be following cricket - enjoy!

  • Comment number 52.

    #51 Difficult to know how much Australia are improving. They lost badly to New Zealand a few months ago, and they are playing a demoralised India now. There's potential in their bowling dept, but there's still a lot of doubt about their battling lineup and wicketkeeper. South Africa have all the talent, but it doesn't translate into results as often as it should, particularly at home. Their win against Sri Lanka was their first home series win in 2 or 3 years, and it included a loss by over 200 runs.

    We're not the best number one there's ever been, but we're definitely deserving of it at the moment, and we should enjoy it.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    #49 Thanks you for being possibly the first person I've seen (including pundits) on the side against the Doosra being a legal delivery who actually knows what the issues are. It's always nice to read it when people understand what is going on regardless of their point of view.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ aitchin

    firstly, the idea that this delivery was 'invented' is a bit pompous, it's a swinging cricket ball, not the internal combustion engine.
    secondly, thomson, lillee, holding and a good few other bowlers claim they knew how to do it, so either they're lying or your comfortable narrative is lacking some details.

    No one's lying chap.
    Lillee may of reversed swung it, I dont know but what I do know is in Pakistan if you're a pace bowler and you couldnt reverse swing you would struggle on those pitches which might explain Lillee's bowling average of 101 in 3 tests against Pakistan on flat wickets? (Imran Khan's bowling avg at home was less than 20 over his career).

    Anyhow, a little on reverse swing and it's pioneers for you...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reverse_swing
    http://blogs.bettor.com/Cricket-Special-Report-The-need-of-reverse-swing-a28220

    Lots of bowlers can reverse swing it now and the recent past and its far less of a mystery now then when everyone was attacking the 2 W's about it.

  • Comment number 56.

    i think more england players need the bat with a straight bat

  • Comment number 57.

    and england should look to stay in not to score runs "the longer your at the crease the more runs your going to score"

  • Comment number 58.

    4# your right they need to pace there selfs and hit the bad balls and defend/leave the good ones

  • Comment number 59.

    21# i see wair your are coming from but andrew strauss is the captain so you carnt just drop him and he has a good stance and uses's the bat well and plays with sence and a good technique technique whilst with peterson evrey one knows he plays better with the old ball and normally gets caught out with the new one (because of the seam and swing) if peterson is wanting to keep on playing english test cricket he is going to have to improve his technique and defend tyhe ball a bit more!

  • Comment number 60.

    if we played with the same mentality as we did against india then we wouldn't have a problem but we are getting too big-headed about the whole "were number 1" thing and we are not playing as we did against india and Pakistan are profiting from that

  • Comment number 61.

    i think we need to bring in a couple of new palyers

  • Comment number 62.

    #60 #61 Knee jerk, knee jerk.

    It's one match, only the 3rd we've lost in two years. We're not going to win every match and we're not going to play well all the time, but the important thing is how well we come back from defeats. Recently we've done well, so let's just wait and see.

  • Comment number 63.

    @zainster, the two articles you linked to are just other people making the same claim you've made. There's no evidence cited, nor references to evidence. The fact that people believe something to be true doesn't make it true. So far you've provided nothing to support the claim.

    you say " if you're a pace bowler and you couldnt reverse swing you would struggle on those pitches ", well if that's your standard of evidence then it's very easy to refute your claim. Andy Roberts, for example, went to pakistan in 1975 and came away with 12 wickets at 26. There, according to your logic he must have been 'reverse' swinging the ball.

    "its far less of a mystery now". yes, because everyone can see what they're doing in close up tv replay.
    The reason the two Ws were and are so controversial, is due to the amount of swing they were getting in unfavourable circumstances. I repeat that subsequent revelations by former pakistani cricketers, including shoaib, have supported the suspicions aired at the time.

  • Comment number 64.

    Can I just ask those complaining about Ajmals action, would you be kicking and screaming if Ajmals figures had been 0-200 over the 2 innings? I don't think you would so stop being hypocritical, and give the guy some credit. He is the best spin bowler in the world right now bar none. Swann, i'll admit does well in the UK, but struggles anywhere else. If its illegal, let the ICC handle it - although, his action hasn't changed all of a sudden, therefore if they were to punish Ajmal, it would show them as being biased towards England, Australia, India (the powerhouses of cricket financially).

    At the end of the day as far as i'm concerned, Pakistan deserve credit for beating an England side ranked 1 in the world. How about applauding the opposition instead of finding a scapegoat.

  • Comment number 65.

    @aitchin

    Likewise you havent offered an iota in support of your claims and other than your own opinion which you are entitled to. You didn't mention Roberts before, you mentioned Lillee who I picked up on as he could definately swing the conventional way as good as anyone so was a good example to use.

    I just posted a couple of links from many you will find out there under 'Reverse Swing' that shared the same view.

    Interstingly, Darren gough openly admitted to admiring the 2 W's and wanting to bowl like them, Flintoff was a teammate of Akrams at Lancashire and Simon Jones a teammate of Waqar's at Glamorgan. Both Flintoff and Jones become excellent exponents of reverse swing which helped England win the Ashes in 2005:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/cricket/7579005.stm

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    @zainster
    "Likewise you havent offered an iota in support of your claims" I'm not claiming to know who first realised an old ball might swing, when particularly dry, you are, so the onus is on you to support such a claim with a bit more than 'some people say nawaz was the first'.

    I didn't mention roberts before, because the names aren't the issue for me, the point is other people knew the old ball could swing and have said as much. I only brought him up to point out that he, amongst many, did well in pakistan, which by your own standard of evidence ("if you're a pace bowler and you couldnt reverse swing you would struggle on those pitches") refutes your earlier claim.

    you say "I just posted a couple of links from many you will find out there under 'Reverse Swing' that shared the same view." again, all you are doing is saying people believe it so it must be true, this is known in logic as the 'argumentum ad populum' its a logical fallacy and proves nothing.

    your last paragraph is just irrelevant, all those bowlers have played alongside many others, it means nothing. If it is the case that flintoff learned from akram, that doesn't mean akram 'invented' it.

    my point is that cricket has a long history and it's very likely that many bowlers have realised that the old ball could swing, because it's something that you could notice, not something that you have to 'invent'. the fact that many bowlers have said that they knew how to do it, before anybody labelled it 'reverse' swing, suggests that's true.

    this doesn't make nawaz or akram lesser bowlers, you don't have to 'invent' a delivery in order to be a great bowler.

  • Comment number 68.

    Am I allowed to make a comment without it being removed. Ridiculous..

  • Comment number 69.

    England are the best team in the world. They are kings of the sub-continent. The best players of spin ever. The greatest team ever assembled since 300 spartans batted away millions of persians. Tomorrow they will RISE!

  • Comment number 70.

    Try posting in a grown up and responsible manner. Just a thought.

    On the issue of reverse swing i think that whilst its futile to try and pin down who "invented" it, i think its true to say that it was some of the great Pakistani bowlers were the ones who worked hardest to identify what caused it, or at least the conditions in which it was most prevalent and utilised it as a weapon.

    On the upcoming test match does Tremletts likely ommission increase the chances of Monty getting a game, it certainly gives the selectors a chance to pick Monty without having to drop anyone. Or do you think that picking Finn as a like for like replacement is more likely?

  • Comment number 71.

    #60 - but you should realise that India's bowling attack is probably weaker than your village team. So it wasnt too hard to pile up the centuries against them

  • Comment number 72.

    If being grown-up was a criteria for posting anything, then most of the tabloid papers would be banned.

  • Comment number 73.

    #70 We tend to be very regimented in our selection, so I think Finn is more likely. I can't see us ever going in with only 2 seamers, so I think Monty's only chance is if we switch to 5 bowlers (which became even more unlikely when Bresnan was injured).

  • Comment number 74.

    For those who’ve suggested dropping KP it sounds like you’re jumping aboard the show-pony band wagon. Let's take a look at the stats...

    Pietersen averaged 73.1 in 2011 which was the fourth best in world cricket (of those that have played more than 2 tests).

    In addition, replacing him with a bowler would be pointless - any issues we’ve faced in the last two years (Jamacia and Perth) have been due to a lack of runs. And if we’re to replace him with another batsman the next in line is Bopara, and nobody wants that.

  • Comment number 75.

    #68 Didn't see the last post that was pulled, but judging from the previous one, maybe you should try removing the chip from your shoulder.

  • Comment number 76.

    62# its not about loosing the match its how we got thrashed! (Knee Jerk?)

  • Comment number 77.

    #76 People have very short memories. 3rd Ashes Test in Perth we were out for 187 and 123. Lost by 267 runs. Next 2 Tests we won by an innings.

    So yeah, right now it's just one loss.

  • Comment number 78.

    The finn vs monty debate is a difficult one. Finn's a very promising bowler who isn't afraid to bowl a full length and adds a bit of extra pace to the england bowling attack. Monty's a proven wicket taker and appears to be in good form. My suspicion is that the pakistani batsmen would prefer to see 2 spinners coming at them, so I'd probably go for finn, unless the pitch looks like a real turner.

    @jimmy "On the issue of reverse swing i think that whilst its futile to try and pin down who "invented" it, i think its true to say that it was some of the great Pakistani bowlers were the ones who worked hardest to identify what caused it, or at least the conditions in which it was most prevalent and utilised it as a weapon."
    agreed.

    @greatwhitepathan
    "If being grown-up was a criteria for posting anything, then most of the tabloid papers would be banned."
    I suspect a lot of what they say would be banned if posted on here.

  • Comment number 79.

    Perhaps the disappointment surrounding England's performance in the first Test can be summarised by the fact that Strauss, Cook, Pietersen and Bell have scored a combined 23,635 runs in 312 Test matches with 73 centuries, yet in Dubai they managed just 39 runs between them with only one instance of double figures being reached.

    With Tremlett having been injured, the selection conundrum is interesting. I can't foresee Morgan being dropped, but given that on previous form at Abu Dhabi England are fairly likely to be spending 150 overs in the field, there would appear to be a good case for including both Finn and Panesar.

    Come on England!

  • Comment number 80.

    Charles

    Please use spellcheck.

    palyers (sic) loosing (sic) wair (sic) evrey (sic) Ad Nauseum

  • Comment number 81.

    After reading all these comments, it looks like everyone is making a ghost out of nothing. It's common sense. No team in this world can remain unbeatable. Every team who is at number one spot has to loose a match some day. So what if England lost a match? Everyone is talking they don't deserve to be at that place and Ajmal is a threat and his action illegal and KP dropped and this and that. All this doesn't make any sense. I bet, next match England win and everyone will be praising all those players and nobody will be worrying about Ajmal's action. All this talk should be done if England loose the series. Then you can say who played bad or who deserves to be at number one. One test is too less to decide for all these things. Let the series go and enjoy it. Once it's over and result in front of us, then we can comment on who to be dropped and who deserves what. England were due for a loss after winning for over a year. You need to loose in order to learn your mistakes and make improvements because if you are winning continuously then all players tend to forget about any improvements in their game and start taking opposition lightly. So, a loss after some winning is necessary for the team.
    Let's watch the series, enjoy it and make any acuses after the series.

  • Comment number 82.

    #81 Agreed. It's pretty sad that after the successes of the last couple of years, some 'supporters' are so quick to criticise and condemn.

  • Comment number 83.

    @Kit ( 74 ), I wondered how long it would take someone on this thread to make a negative comment about Bopara. I'm curious to know if you feel the same way about Morgan, who's Test record is remarkably similar to Bopara's? Have you written off Morgan as a Test cricketer in the same way that you've written off Bopara or are you prepared to be patient with him? And if you're prepared to be patient with Morgan why have you lost patience with Bopara?

    The fact of the matter is neither of them have established themselves in Test cricket yet forums like this are full of people like you mocking Bopara but not Morgan. I have my doubts about both of them but I haven't given up hope that both may yet establish themselves in Test cricket.

  • Comment number 84.

    People should concentrate on Pakistan. They are the ones who have crushed the no.1 team in 3 days on a flat deck. Pakistan is finally a united team who play hard cricket and fear no other team. UAE is a great home for Pakistan, it doesn't have the pressure of playing in Lahore or Karachi but the biggest positive for Pakistan is the genius called Saeed Ajmal. Imagine if England faced him on a dustbowl, they would be bowled out for less than 50 the way they play him.

    Abu Dhabi is indeed the flatest surface in this series but flat surfaces don't worry Pakistan bowlers, they have spent their whole careers taking wickets on flat decks.

    Pakistan only need to collapse England once in the two innings which will give them a great chance for a series victory.

    Good luck England, even if you get through day 1 and day 2 you will always be under pressure of collapse against this Pakistan bowling line up.

  • Comment number 85.

    80# im dislexic!

  • Comment number 86.

    77# ya but thats when the condishions suited england in australia whilst in dubi its the opisit!

  • Comment number 87.

    #86 So as the conditions suited us in Australia, and we couldn't claim we were under prepared, the Perth thrashing was much, much worse than the loss in Dubai.

  • Comment number 88.

    Very tense day of cricket. New ball spinning lots on the first day and a lot outside the left-handers off stump. England have plenty of left handers for Ajmal and Hafeez to feed on!

    And Misbah - whaddaplayer!

  • Comment number 89.

    87# i agree with you there

  • Comment number 90.

    Well done (again) KP, belting stuff.

  • Comment number 91.

    #90 So what are your thoughts on Strauss and Morgan? They've failed far more often than KP, so why do you single him out?

  • Comment number 92.

    Isnt it obvious??? The Anti KP brigade just dont like the cut of his jib.

    Playing the numbers game presents indisputable case that he should't be dropped, however I have to admit that his rather frenetic nature and questionable shot selection mean that i actually have little faith in him whenever he walks to the crease.

  • Comment number 93.

    48 - Oh look! Pieterson got another 14 runs to England's total.. brillllllliant. He's a weak link and England can do without him. How can anyone take an Englishman seriously when he sports a Mauri tattoo? What's that all about? (Completely left field I know)

    We have far better options than Pieterson. What centuries are you talking about???? Or have you been watching a DVD of his best days and forgot about the present?

    Pakistan are in a good position to take this if they get early wickets tomorrow morning. England need to hold their own and try to get at least a 50 run lead.

  • Comment number 94.

    @91 & 92.

    It isn't about being part of the 'anti KP brigade' he isn't playing well, and therefore deserves the criticism that comes his way. Strauss isn't playing well either, but you aren't going to drop the captain, and a good one he is at that. Morgans dismissal was a lazy one, he thought he'd done enough to see out the day, he didn't need to play at that ball.

    But if you can defend KP charging down the wicket to a spinner on a turning track and being beaten all ends up, when his team needed him to see out the day, then go ahead, being part of the 'KP fan club' must make it impossible for you to see any of his failures with the bat.

  • Comment number 95.

    #93 Are you serious, or is that a weak attempt at a joke? If it's not, are you a goldfish?

    In the 11 matches previous to this series (to include Australia, Sri Lanka and India) KP scored 1012 runs at an average of 72.28. This included scores of 227, 202 not out and 175, plus 5 fifties.

    But you're right, last year is so.... in the past. Please, please tell me who are these magically gifted players we have waiting in the wings, who can score more runs than this 'weak link' with the dodgy tattoo? I'd love to know. And so would the selectors.

    (By the way, in the same period Strauss averaged 30 and Morgan 40, so you'd better think about replacing them as well.)

  • Comment number 96.

    #94 He's failed in 3 innings. So has Strauss, so has Morgan. Cook and Bell have failed in 2 so far, and Bell might yet fail his third.

    And yet you and others who obviously dislike him as a person (as if that's anything to do with anything) focus entirely on KP. And with your selective memories, perhaps caused by the giant blinkers you're wearing, conveniently forget that before this series he has been in great form.

    I know he has faults, and I know he's not in the best of form. But you don't drop any player after 3 failed innings. It's brainless.

    Not that I want Strauss dropped right now, are you saying that we should NEVER drop him? How many more years should we give him to fail as a batsman, do you think?

  • Comment number 97.

    I didnt see the dismissal today as i'm at work however according to live text he hit the ball into his boot and got caught off the rebound. It may not have been a wise shot but none the less thats very unlucky.

    KP has scored a lot of runs this year, if you want to drop him your only justification can be that he now has 3 bad scores. On that basis you have to drop Morgan who has scored far less runs since coming into the team. Its the kind of policy that lead to caps being handed out to all and sundry in the 90's and resulted in a very very weak England team

  • Comment number 98.

    @95
    You can't hide from the fact that he is a batsman that isn't scoring any runs.
    Yes, neither are Strauss or Morgan, but ones the captain, and the other is still relatively fresh into his test career, KP is supposedly our 'premier batsman' but he isn't performing. No one would banish him for the test team never to return, dropping him my do him some good, if anything it'll prove that his position in the side is not guaranteed.

  • Comment number 99.

    #98 The trouble is you're using one and a half matches to judge him, and him alone, as not performing. Actually you judged him after just one match. So that's a year of very good work gone out the window after just one match.

    What a great selection policy that is.

  • Comment number 100.

    The difference between KP and the other batsmen, he gives his wicket away more than anyone else. That is what sticks in everyones mind, this innings and his dismissal in the 2nd innings of the first test are yet more prime examples of the fact that he looks more comfortable with his feet up on the balcony, then out in the middle.
    From the article;
    "while Pietersen was lured into a false shot by Ajmal in the first innings and mindlessly pulled to deep square-leg in the second."

    Can't really remember the last time another player was labelled as 'mindlessly' giving away their wicket. But of course, it's KP our star player, and according to you at least, exempt from any sort of criticism.

    I hope he scores a match saving hundred in the 2nd innings and goes on to get a big score in the final test to set up an England win, but I wouldn't bet on it.

 

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