Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Ajmal plants the Saeed of doubt into England

England sure do have a task on their hands. After the first day of the first test between Pakistan and the English in Dubai, it is Pakistan who have gained an early and mouth-watering initiative in the early stages of this series.
Andrew Strauss seeming rather reluctant to pick Monty Panesar, in conditions where England's seamers have struggled in the past. On the sub-continent. An area of the planet where no English bowlers have really set the level of fierce, penetrating fast bowling.
Tremlett, Broad and Bell started after injury scares. As did Kevin Pietersen. Strauss wins the toss, and elects to bat. Mistake Number One. An out of form Jonathan Trott would surely be looking for some big runs to end his worst run of form in an England shirt? Would Eoin Morgan really cement his claim for a place in the Test side? And would the opening duo of Alistair Cook and captain Strauss provide England with the backbone to a steady innings. The Answer? No.

England were bowled out for a miserable 192. An innings that was saved by the resourcefulness and stubbornness of wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Prior, and part-time batsman Graeme Swann. England found themselves 94-7, with Pakistani spinner Saeed Ajmal picking five of the seven. Ian Bell's injury worries were certainly proof in the pudding as he went first ball. Cook managed only three, and the erratic Pietersen once again gave the critics something to cheer about after only scoring a painful two runs off 29 balls. Trott looked a mere shadow of his normal self, whilst Strauss' naivity sent his bails toppling to the floor.
Morgan provided a brief test for the Pakistan attack, for which Ajmal happily obliged by dismissing the left-hander LBW for 24. Prior's resurgence though, and Swann's aggravating batting has taken England up to a more respectable total. Prior's battling 70 not out, and 35 from Swann left England 192 all out. A total most England fans would be stunned to se, but one Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower have to deal with, and quickly.
England need some early wickets on day two, with Pakistan reaching 42-0 at the close.

The day belonged to Saeed Ajmal though, and on a grander scale Pakistan. The start to this test match has buried any sorrow memories for a country in the spotlight of international cricket. The spot-fixing scandal of Butt, Amir and Asif seems long gone. Pakistan is under a new stewardship, and a new era. Ajmal's match figures of 7-55 off 24.3 overs shows a sheer passion and drive to overcome their problems. This team will centre around the more experienced players, but the chance for the younger generation will soon be approaching. Ajmal has set an example for Pakistan to learn from past human errors, and time to give the cricketing world something to think about.

England certainly have an early problem on their mind, and the decision to leave spinner Monty Panesar out of the team for this test will certainly be banging around in his head for a while, with 9 of the England wickets being dismissed by spin bowlers. England's first day in Dubai has been a horror, and something which must be amended quickly. Maybe Swann will be able to succeed in the same way Ajmal did, or is it time for a seamer to make a name for themselves in the sub-continent? Stuart Broad has a lot of critics to answer to. Chris Tremlett has competition from the likes of Steven Finn and Graham Onions. James Anderson will be looking to continue the form which has made him England's leading bowler, and one of the best bowlers in the world.

So, I leave this message to the England coaching staff and players before tomorrow's crucial play begins. You are the best in the world, you are number one in the world, but my oh my, you have a fight on your hands.

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