Déjà vu in winless series defeat for England

By Ryan Moran

  • England complete another test series in the UAE without a win against Pakistan, the other in 2011.
  • A second innings batting collapse cost the visitors victory in the final test.
  • Pakistan 234 all out & 355 all out, England 306 all out, 156 all out.

Sharjah, UAE – Another winless test series on Middle Eastern soil taught the visitors harsh lessons as another disappointing test series in the UAE comes to an end.

In a series where opportunities arose for the fringe players to impress selectors, many failed to set the world alight as Pakistan continued where they left off in 2011. A draw in the first match gave both sides a platform to kick on and take control with the Three Lions having more to prove. Unfortunately, the word déjà vu comes to mind with two losses that followed.

The tried and trusted were exactly that, producing the quality parallel to their world status. James Anderson and Stuart Broad took six wickets between them for 30 runs in 28 overs, showing why the pair are in the top five bowlers in the world in the ICC rankings. However, when Pakistan needed their captain to steady the ship Misbah-ul-Haq did just that scoring a respectable 71, the only player to make a half century in his side’s first innings.

Samit Patel was preferred to Liam Plunkett, providing an extra spin option which by the end of day one didn’t produced its desired effect. The trio produced four wickets for an expensive total of 175 runs from 46 overs on a pitch with the capability of the ball turning off the surface. Coming into the side, Patel did produce the quality required from the spinners but Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali did not produce the same moments of quality the tourists needed in a must win match. Danger man Misbah found it all too easy to take the spinning options apart with the opening pair of Anderson and Broad needed to dismiss the threat, the captain caught in the slips from Anderson’s second spell.

The one disappointment on the first day was the injury picked up by Ben Stokes. The all-rounder appeared to fall while attempting to catch Sarfraz Ahmed, leaving the field with a shoulder injury. Alastair Cook and Ali set out at the end of day one to get their side off to a solid start ready for day two having seen off what has been a threatening batting attack in the series. With four runs for Ali, England trailed Pakistan by 230 runs going into day two.

Day two gave the openers time to build an innings and make up for what has been a poor display of batting right through the order with the exception of Joe Root who has been the most consistent, relied on too much in recent times in test cricket. Ali continued his dismal form when opening alongside Cook making 14 runs before playing a lackluster shot so early on into the innings. A slog sweep that was easily collected to bring Ian Bell to the crease. Pressure was on with many critics suggesting it was crunch time for the batsman after a string of poor performances. 40 runs however gave his side stability with the loss of Cook for 49 and surprisingly Root for four bringing James Taylor to the crease for the first time in the series.

Taylor had not been involved in a test series since 2012 and having replaced Jos Buttler in the squad, runs were needed to justify the change and pin down a place for the tour of South Africa in December. The batsman did exactly that, playing himself in making it through the early pressure arriving at the crease with spinner Yasir Shah at one end and pace bowler Rahat Ali at the other, a deadly partnership making England’s batsmen look a class below at 97-3.

As day two progressed, so did the score Taylor was accumulating at the crease as the Nottinghamshire player started to produce a score, emulating that of his ODI scores against Australia and with his quality with the bat rather than luck. As Bell fell, in came Buttler’s replacement wicketkeeper, Jonny Bairstow. The pair finished day two at the crease, making a partnership of 83, Taylor making 74 not out and Bairstow 37 not out going into day three, 12 runs behind Pakistan on 222-4.

Taylor couldn’t rebuild the momentum at the start of the day however, being caught behind adding only two runs to make a return to test cricket with a score of 74. Patel came to the crease with a free flowing 42 only to be sent back by a spinning masterclass by Shah, the ball moving from leg to take the top of the off stump. This marked the all-rounder’s return to test cricket with his highest test score. After Patel’s dismissal, the tail had an innings to forget, losing the last four wickets for only 21 runs. Cook’s side finished on 306, a 72 run lead with a day and a half left to level the series and claim a first win in six attempts in the UAE against Pakistan.

The bowling attack struggled to make a breakthrough as the opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali started to open up the gap between the two sides in Pakistan’s favour. The evening session was where the tourists got their rewards but couldn’t get the wanted wicket of Hafeez who ended the day three runs short of his hundred. A run out dismissed Ali, Shoaib Malik falling LBW to a reverse swinging Anderson delivery and Broad taking Khan’s wicket in the same way Malik fell. Hafeez seemed to have nine lives as three opportunities to dismiss the batsman proved inconclusive, two catches behind overruled by the third umpire and a dropped catch by Bairstow would prove costly with the opener ending 86 runs better off after the dropped catch on 11 runs. Missed stumpings on day four and another dropped catch, this time by Broad, were made to pay as Hafeez made 151 when finally Bell caught the opener off of Ali’s bowling in a frustrating morning where Ahmed scored a run a ball to 36 runs, finally being sent back being bowled by Patel. The batting side finished on 355, 248 runs off of the visitor’s spin options showed the struggled and gulf in quality, partly put down to the conditions suiting Pakistan rather than England, not excusing the poor bowling display.

330 was the target as Cook and Ali walked out to the crease, set about chasing down a large total. Ali once again failed to impress, making 22 before falling LBW to Malik, while Bell failed to play himself in to the game, 13 balls after Ali, was bowled for a duck as England went in to day five with 284 to win with Cook and Root at the crease.

11 runs for four wickets was how England started on day five in their 284 run chase to avoid five defeats in six in the UAE against Pakistan. Root, Taylor, Bairstow and Patel fell with Cook the mainstay at the crease as his side once again buckled under the pressure of a run chase to avoid another dismal batting display. Rashid and Broad contributed 22 and 20 respectively with the captain making 63 in a game where four batsmen contributed nothing.

The injury to Stoke early on in the final test left England a seam bowler short and also a capable batsman short because of the injury to his collar bone. The ineffective spin bowling epitomized England’s downfall in equal measures to the inconsistency with the bat, excluding Cook, contributing 112 over two innings with even Root proving form is temporary with a combined total of 10, an average of five runs. However, missed chances in Pakistan’s second innings put into perspective where the tourists let the game slip into the hands of their opposition. At the top level of the game against the second best test side in the world, you cannot drop twice and afford to miss stumping opportunities.

ODI series with Pakistan starts in Abu Dhabi on 11th November.

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