Advantages The series is being played
Disadvantages England are getting stuffed!
So, after nailing Pakistan bang to rights for match-fixing, ball tampering, taking steroids, and harboring the worlds most wanted man, the cricket team are being eased back into international action by a rather forgiving ICC, hopefully the team no longer as dodgy as their star mystery spinners bent arm. But more about him later.The series in the Middle East for fans has been as sterile as cricket gets - no booze, gay sex and getting your tattooed boobs out on the beach here matey, great preparation for spectators for the 2022 football World Cup no doubt! Team England tickled back by picking the now openly gay Stephen Davies as reserve keeper. Stephen was immediately dropped from England when he came out as gay (although the ECB would say it was for other reasons) and so it’s great to see Andy Flower invite him back, an excellent cricketer.
The three match test series and seven one-dayers in the Middle-East was a compromise to the fact the country of Pakistan is still not safe enough to play international cricket anymore and with a military coup imminent it won’t be for years to come. The Arab Emirates and Dubai seemed to treat the tour as an inconvenience.England went out to the desert and palm trees still riding the wave of whipping India 4-0 (although that meaningless now Aussie have repeated that) and the plan again all about batting big to pile up the runs by playing six specialists blades and then hope Swanny or Monty can get into them on what are slow and low squares in the desert principalities.
England’s selection policy continues to be the nomenclature method with the guys all coming from Test ground counties or first division sides. Its been made quite clear by the ECB that if you want to play for England you must move to a bigger county, penalizing guys at teams like Northamptonshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire etc. In the old days The Daily Telegraph picked the team and it was very much the next cab off the rank time as England used over 100 players in the 1990s, but now it’s more rigid and incestuous. Today, guys like James Taylor at Leicestershire have to leave the shires and play for a big test county, regardless of how poor that team is, or there will be no international career for them, meaning the smaller counties struggle to compete. The England selection policy is being used to create a first-class premier league in cricket that has all the good players in it, the theory being if the good players go to the under-performing big teams then the top league will be full of the big test ground teams. Graeme Swann played no better at Nott’s after his move from Northamptonshire and seemed to be selected on the basis of that move only. Tremlett, Dernbach and Meaker all secured caps when they moved to Surrey, the team anchored at the bottom of division two when they did sign for Surrey.On the match-fixing side the ECB and now the ICC have been rather naughty and tried to shift the blame onto country cricket so to evade the international; match-fixing talk during this series. Mervyn Westfield, a once promising fast bowler on Essex books, has backed this filibuster theory by pleading guilty to spot-fixing this month, bang-to-rights as he had bragged about his six grand payment from a fixer (believed to be from the then Pakistan and Essex leg- spinner Danish Kaneria) to his teammate Tony Palladino, his willingness to take the rap and not contest things suggesting a plea-bargain deal going down between the lawyers so no other names involved are dragged up, only the primary fixer due to be named on February 11th. The ECB say the county game is at more threat than the international game because of this case, which I find risible, although I’m pretty sure it does go on in Twenty20 and definitely in Pro40, due to the saturation of mercenary overseas players on ever shorter deals in England, the later tournament the ones most pros hate playing and so don’t respect and so no doubt up for a few quid on the side. The ECB have opened a confidential phone line for players and people in the game to name names. I rang it up with my brilliant Alan Lamb impression to name Kim Hughes as the man who threw that test in the legendary 1981 series. Watch this space.
-1st Test: Jan 16th-21st) -
United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi
England rolled into town in their Ferraris with their one year unbeaten record to take the crease and immediately got sand in eleven of the twelve cylinders, 75-5 at lunch. They knew the pitch would be slow, low and dusty, this their fourth straight match on it, but not prepared for the mystery spin of Ajmal who was soon causing havoc, the fast bowlers as equally accurate at the other end to compliment him. Ajmal didn’t bowl his first ball in test cricket until he was 31-years-old and has clearly forced his way into the game at a higher level due to the Sub-Continent run ICC (International Cricket Council) ‘bending’ of the rules on the arm not being straight at the horizontal to make sure Sri-Lankan Mulitheran’s action was legit, allowing 15 degrees ‘flexibility, the finger spinners from their part of the world dominating thereafter and so winning test matches off the back of it all. Its politics as usual in the old empire as darker skinned administrators play the racial sensitivity card to stop the law changes being contested.It’s the ‘Doosra’ ball, the one that goes the other way for off-spin bowlers (and shouldn’t be possible with a straight arm) that is getting test batsmen in trouble and the one where Ajmal and the like are bending the arm noticeably. If England really wants to throw a bomb in there then why not appeal for a no ball through the referral system? Is it not as clear as day to the fourth umpire on the replays that the guy is ‘chucking’? Umpire Billy Bowden of New Zealand, standing in this series, has called him before for throwing but the lad was cleared by the ICC three weeks later and so pointless doing it again. Ajmal has tried to deflect what he knew was coming with this ‘Teesra’ nonsense, a new delivery he claims to have invented that will bamboozle England even more, clearly getting into the batsmen’s heads with this guff. But he already looks a series winner, bent arm or not.
The First test…It was the traditional undercooked performance by a touring England team on the first day of a test and Pakistan very much at home in the conditions. The Barmy Army’s cheers echoed around the near empty ground to try and lift the team, a somewhat moronic noise if you consider the setting and alcohol rules in the country. The ground did have a booze license on special request though, the bar strategically placed at one end of the ground – the expensive end, the fans preferring to sit in the shade at that end and pay a five-fold admittance fee for the drinking privilege… 100 drahms ($25) instead of 20 drahms ($7) in the sunny end, a little bit pathetic if we are honest, especially with beers around $10 a pint there.
England pulled it around some from 5-45 in the second half of the day but Ajmal continued the carnage and knocked us over for 192, taking 7-55, the three spin attacking earning 9 - 112. Amjal’s haul would include 5 LBWs, only the sixth time in test history a bowler has done that and has the third highest percentage of LBWs from his 90 odd scalps in the history of tests now. He didn’t particularly rip the ball on a pitch that wasn’t turning but just got into the players minds like a Kung Fu master and England clearly short on facing Sub-Continent cricket and conditions , and haven’t played a world class tweaker like this guy since Warne in 2006. Not picking Panesar alongside Swann looked a bad call before the toss and even more after day one. England could have dropped Morgan and played Prior at six, the keeper top scoring here with an unbeaten 70, stubborn Andy Flower too defensive.England 1st innings –192
Pakistan 1st Innings 338 –all-outHafeez 88
Trott managed 49 (the fourth fastest Englishman (cough!) to 2000 test runs) but once he was out it was a three day test. Swann chipped and charged to make Pakistan bat again to avoid England first innings defeat for two years and 21 tests (Joburg in 2010) before Ajmal took his tenth wicket in the match. Pakistan knocked off the 15 to win and neatly rapped up the match on the last over of the day in Dubai. When Pakistan want to play they are very special to watch and stylish cricketers all the way and this result was no surprise. England always seem to crumble like the pitches in the sub-continent.England second innings – 160 all-out
Pakistan won the toss and looked at home on the surface and closed the day on 256-7, a good score on this pitch, captain Misbaq-ul-haq controlling things with 82*, Shafiq with 58 alongside, Monty going for five sixes, two in the last over of the day by the captain.
England learnt their lesson and doubled the spin attack for test two with the return of Monty Panesar, the wicket offering little for the seamers, slow and low with first day dusty turn, a 500 over test match possible with 5 spinners in the game.
Day two and fog and rain swirled around the ground as the players sat in the dressing room doing Sudoku and crosswords. Ok, I’m lying, hot and sunny yet again! How boring would it be to do the weathercast there on TV?England arrived in the mood and blasted their way back into the series, the last three wickets lasting barely ten minutes, Andersen cleaning up for 257 all-out. England are not world beaters for nothing. If the last wicket had not been caught it would have been the first test since 1948 that all 10 dismissals were LBW or bowled.
Pakistan 1st Innings 257Misbah-ul-Haq 84
England Ist innings 327 all-outCook 94
Ajmal 4- 108
Pakistan 2nd innings 214 all outAzhar 84
Panesar 6-62So the target was 145 in a day and a half, England only once failing to make 150 or less in the last innings to win since 1908, Boycotts side in NZ chasing 149 skittled for 64 by the great Richard Hadlee in 1976. At tea it was the Wellington backlash, England 39-4 and the spinners causing havoc, a world record 26 dismissals of bowled or LBW in the match when Morgan had his leg stump pinged by Rehman. I suspect that record is due to the three appeals the bowling and batting sides have in an innings to contest the on field umpires decision and so disputed catches can no longer con the umpires and so increase the chances of the guys being out to straighter balls.
England 2nd innings 72 all-out
England lost by 72 runs and the series 2-0.
Drop Pietersen and pick Bopara!
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