Posted by: tootingtrumpet | February 7, 2012

Pakistan vs England 2012 – Series Report Card England

Saeed Ajmal (left) and Ian Bell (right)

Andrew Strauss (150 runs at 25.0) – Set the tone on the very first morning of the series with tentative footwork and an almost desperate shot to get out with 20 overs not yet bowled. Looked like a man coming back after a long lay-off and, though he eventually began to play like the batsman we know him to be, by then the game was up. His poorish form of the last twelve months had not transmitted itself down the order, but his poking about from the crease seemed to infect the batting unit in this series. Totally outplayed by his opposite number as captain, a man who was able to send self-belief coursing through his team no matter what the scoreboard said or how the pitch played, Strauss will look at his captaincy as well as his batting. A sobering experience that will have hurt a proud and reflective man.

Alastair Cook (159 runs at 26.5) – One good score, one decent score and another record notched up as he reached 6000 runs, but, denied the width and pace he craves, looked short of shots and put pressure on the man at the other end. That he and his fellow opener faced more deliveries than any other England batsman in the series, but could only put 26 of those 940 balls away for four, showed how Pakistan’s disciplined attack were simply allowed to bowl right from the start by a pair whose limitations of form and stroke led to a fatal passivity.

Jonathan Trott (161 runs at 26.8, 1 wicket at 42.0) – Since his debut century in the cauldron of an Ashes decider in 2009, has often made the accumulation of runs look routine, if never easy. The game, of course, always has its revenge (even leaving the one who mastered it more than anyone else 0.06 short of averaging three figures) and Trott will have much to ponder after scoring fewer runs in six innings (one blighted by illness) than he managed in a single undefeated knock against Pakistan at Lord’s in 2010. As always when England disappoint, the whispers about his place in the ODI team have already started to circulate – unfairly so.

KP (67 runs at 11.1) – On debut, he affected a ludicrous skunk hairstyle while dropping catches as Australia’s superpowered 2005 batting line-up were blitzed by England’s pace and swing, only for Glenn McGrath’s masterclass to  reduce England to 21-5. He responded by smashing SK Warne for two sixes, top-scoring in both innings and cementing his place as the talking point of English cricket. If that American Pie teenager persona looked a little forced, so does his furrowed brow, deeply serious, doting father / senior pro / statesman of the game persona that he wears just as unconvincingly these days. Like many immigrants, his hard work and commitment to his country are beyond reproach, but his identity within it seems to play on his mind. I’ll excuse myself that foray into amateur psychology, because it was so obviously KP’s mind that was not right in this series, played in largely empty stadiums against bowlers that I suspect he doesn’t rate. Sure he has technical issues and needs to play with a straighter bat, but, more than anything, he needs to release the inner Stifler and dominate the bowling and his team-mates and leave the language of self-help manuals and sports psychologists at home – it doesn’t work for everyone. Whether missing slow turning deliveries from left-armers or holing out at deep square leg, everything KP does looks over-thought  - and KP’s talent is not in his brain, it’s in his eye and his big frame propelling the ball to all parts of the ground from halfway up the pitch.

Ian Bell (51 runs at 8.5) – The re-incarnation of PBH May came down to earth with the most almighty thud as he was as hypnotised by Saeed Ajmal’s straight doosra as Darryl Cullinan was by Shane Warne’s straight flipper. Unthinkable to believe that his place is under threat after such an astonishing recent run of form, but will face similar wickets, if not quite the same mystery, in Sri Lanka. If England try something different in the upcoming ODIs and T20Is, it might be better to let Belly have a complete break from international cricket and allow him to spend some time in the nets watching the ball and playing it late, scoring a few early season runs for Warwickshire and getting ready for Steyn, Morkel and Philander in the summer. But he might be saved by…

Eoin Morgan (82 runs at 13.7) – Got to double figures in four innings of six, yet still managed to average less than 14. Provides the vital spark of unorthodoxy that England need in all forms of the game – especially with KP doing his Julian in the Famous Five schtick – but that doesn’t work in the pavilion where he is beginning to spend too much of his Test career. Is now caught in an unpleasant spiral where Test bowlers mark him for a easy wicket and bowl at him expecting him to get out. England have shown great loyalty to their chosen men, but allowing Morgan to play a central role in the ODI and T20I squads, while putting his Test career on hold, might look an attractive option just now.

Matt Prior (150 runs at 37.5, 5 catches and 1 stumping) – Figures do not do him justice, as he was left high and dry twice. Showed the best footwork of any England batsman, not through attempting the twinkle-toed approach of a Brian Lara or a Michael Clarke (either of whom would have scored very big on these slow turners), but by decisively going forward or back and watching the ball on to the bat. Scoring at a better rate than any of the men ahead of him kept bowlers and captain looking to block runs as well as take wickets. Kept tidily too and looked a substantial presence in the team – a world away from the sledging, strutting spiller of chances who first played for England and a testament to his willingness to learn how to get the most from his formidable talents.

Stuart Broad (13 wickets at 20.5 and 105 runs at 21) – Bowled with great discipline on a McGrathian line and length moving the ball in a bit and out a bit and occasionally hitting the splice with the new ball. Understands the benefit of er… good areas and has abandoned experimentation and his absurd Enforcer tag (that may not have been his fault). Often looked as comfortable as any England batsman at the crease and would be even more of an asset for England if he set out to bat sessions rather than cameos, but that’s a helluva’n ask while also playing ODI and T20I cricket. As it is, his bowling is critical to England and his batting a bonus, especially when he can drop to nine with Bresnan at eight.

Graeme Swann (13 wickets at 25.1 and 105 runs at 17.5) – Almost identical figures to Broad but receiving none of the praise afforded to his fellow Notts man. That’s partly because Swanny has set such high expectations and partly because he was the least effective of the five spinners on show. He’s too smart not to notice the upside and downside of the above and too smart to realise that his infectious energy needs to be delivered on the pitch and not dissipated in ghost-written biographies, fronting “comedy” DVDs, video diaries, tweets…

Jimmy Anderson (9 wickets at 27.7 and 54 runs at 10.8) – Though not quite ready for comparisons with Sir Richard Hadlee, he would do well to note that the great New Zealander took most of his wickets past the age of thirty as a fast-medium craftsman who never gave a batsman a break. Like his new ball partner, he knows his game and has plenty when conditions favour him and plenty when they don’t. As brilliant in the field as ever, he will have to play as long as Richard Hadlee did to bowl like that and end up whitewashed.

Monty (13 wickets at 21.6, 8 runs at 4.0) – Did all the Monty things we had loved and missed. Gamboled about in the field like a foal finding its feet, batted with enormous concentration to little effect and bowled over after over at the same pace into the same “good areas” he so enjoyed telling us about. But he kept going, turned a few and got his complement of right-handers out. If Bresnan and Swanny are fit, it’s hard to see a slot for him, even on the sub-continent, yet for England fans who grew up with such colourless spinners valued for an occasional 30 down the order as much as their inevitable two for 80-odds, that seems unfair. I suppose Monty might want to chat to Stuart MacGill about it one day.

Chris Tremlett – Just the one Test before being sent home injured with his international career, thrillingly revived just over twelve months ago, now in question once again. I wish him well.

Pakistan – A superbly disciplined performance from a team who keep coming up with answers to Test cricket’s vast range of questions. Their success was built on finding a couple of batsmen to dig in and make scores when needed (most obviously in the Third Test when Younus showed his class and Azhar played an innings to stand comparison with any played by Stephen Waugh in a clutch situation – in with the deficit 26, out with the lead 321) and then bowling relentlessly to plans that were set perfectly for the conditions. Saeed Ajmal confused and Abdur Rehman confounded England  - a couple of “cons” that consigned past “cons” to history – without ever looking really unplayable. Those spin twins were supported well by Umar Gul’s nagging pace and Mohammad Hafeez’s under-rated spin and by a captain who, like Mike Brearley before him, appears to sail through a match hardly noticed, yet is everywhere for his team, geeing up and calming down, advising here, cajoling there. This is a team in Misbah’s image – good, but not great; talented, but not mercurial; and, most of all, committed to the execution of winning cricket. He has been the world’s most important cricketer since assuming his nation’s captaincy and has hardly put a foot wrong on or off the field – and no praise is too high for the man.

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Responses

  1. Nicest thing about Monty is no matter if he is only in the team for one test match or ten, you feel his enthusiasm and what looks like a lack of anxiousness over his position. He just loves playing the sport, doesn’t he?

    • He does Lolly. When he takes a wicket, it’s just like the kids in the playground, kids we once all were.

  2. Someone on Test Match Sofa had a lovely little anecdote about Monty Panesar taking his rubbish out and just going through his bowling action once he’d done it. He does strike me as the type that just loves bowling so much that even when he’s at home, not able to bowl properly, he still turns his arm over.

    • Martin – I recall a piece in The Cricketer years back which told a tale of him bowling in the snow at Northants waiting for the indoor nets to open.

  3. Nice thread Toots, don’t know what the KP answer is but as you say it probably involves less of a furrowed brow and less hand wringing.

    l think you have somewhat undersold Ajmal in particular, thought he bowled absolutely beautifully especially in the first two tests. Wonderful craft.

    Enjoyed the series thoroughly, it suited better than the Australian hours. Despite the scoreline it was quite a tight series with Pakistan just managing to emerge as the better side in the critical moments. Not just with the ball, some wonderful partnerships, that one in the ‘live’ second test in particular when they looked gone. Well done, fantastic for world cricket!

    Credit to Englands bowlers, especially Broad, though l think the figures flatter Swann.

    • Hi Brett – Ajmal did bowl beautifully, but he never seemed unplayable, never seemed about to turn it square, but he found a way of getting into minds and making things happen. Lovely performance.

      Very much about key moment wasn’t it? Snare Younus early and England would surely have won the Third Test. Get away to 50-1 off 12 overs, and we’d surely have won the Second. But Misbah and co didn’t allow either!

  4. Not sure Clarke would have scored too many in this series to be honest, he might have got plenty of N.O.s though.

  5. Reallly enjoyed the summing up of Pakistan and especially of MIsbah.
    Excellent

    • Thanks vikwithak – had I seen more, I would have written more.

  6. [...] • This blog first appeared on the 99.4 site [...]


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