January 21, 2012

Pakistan v England 2011-12

A visit to Saeed's supermarket of spin

Andrew Hughes
Ian Bell walks out of the nets with discomfort to his left wrist, Dubai, January, 16, 2012
Ian Bell practises the flummoxed batsman look for the next time he meets Ajmal  © Getty Images
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Thursday, 19th January As a fan of the three-day game, it was great to see England doing their bit to promote one of cricket’s classic formats. There were no wacky declarations in their homage to 1980s county cricket, but they did bring on Jonathan Trott for some joke bowling and they managed to wrap the whole thing up by the third evening. Well done, chaps.

Saeed Ajmal was their nemesis, a smiling purveyor of psychological cricket warfare and cunningly fashioned straightish ones that kind of do a little bit. On the face of it, there doesn’t appear to be much devil in the Ajmal style. If he sold his deliveries in a high street shop, the customers would soon be complaining about the lack of choice.

“Saeed, where are the teesras you said you were getting in? And these doosras here look very similar to your offbreaks over there.”

“Ah,” he would reply, with a grin, “But if you look very closely, you can see that one bends slightly this way, and one bends slightly that way.”

And it’s true. Of course, Ian Bell’s visit to Saeed’s Supermarket of Spin would end after a couple of minutes of confused browsing, with the wee fella running out, screaming, “I don’t know which one to choose! I don’t know which one to choose!”

Bell is, remember, England’s officially nominated “best player of spin”, which admittedly isn’t a great claim to fame, a bit like being the tallest of the seven dwarves or the least unpleasant Republican presidential hopeful, but still, if anyone could handle Saeed, it was going to be Ian.

That didn’t work out too well and now England’s only hope of leaving the Middle East with any semblance of dignity lies in their batsmen finding a way to identify the doosra, preferably before it hits their pad. At the moment, I doubt they’d spot it even if the ICC were to introduce a new rule requiring the umpire to hold up a card stating “Warning: Doosra!” at the appropriate moment.

They will though have some behind-the-scenes help. I don’t mean Merlin the magical bowling machine. I’m talking about the Sky commentators. We should never forget one of the fundamental principles of modern cricket, known as Murali’s Law, which states that the extent to which a spin bowler’s action is a problem is directly related to the number of opponents he has dismissed in the current series.

We have already heard Bob Willis talking ominously about long sleeves and crooked elbows and ahead of the second Test, Sky are working on a giant rubber protractor which Nasser Hussain will hold up in front of the camera every time Saeed bowls in order to give us regular readouts on his angle of arm-bend. Expect more public tastings of vintage Chateau Sour as the series goes on.

Pakistan fans, meanwhile, were having a fantastic time, watching a match in which their team started off well, carried on doing well and utterly refused to throw it away in the most painful way possible right at the end. And in between watching the clatter of English wickets, there was the added entertainment of goading Ian Botham via Twitter, a pastime which obviously I could not possibly endorse.

This metamorphosis from embarrassing shambles to casual success would be remarkable for most teams, but for Pakistan, it’s just another 12 months. With their opponents in disarray, the series is theirs for the taking. Providing they don’t do anything silly…

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (January 25, 2012, 1:49 GMT)

Come on England! Play Panesar and Swanny, make it a spin fest! Panesar, Swann and Pieterson vs Hafeez Rehman and Ajmal, it'd be so much fun! silly points, forward short legs, attacking for days on end, 96 overs a day! This one spin 3 seam English thing ain't gonna work in the Middle East. They have camels there! Broad and Anderson are good enough for pace, and we'll have a terrific game, now if England wins the toss, with spin , you can put Pakistan in, or you can bat first if you want to risk facing spin after 8 overs..Spin for the Win!

Posted by Ghulam Panhwer on (January 24, 2012, 0:56 GMT)

So, england played 3 three day marches in UAE, out of 3 they lost only one and won 2, not bad, good job England.

Posted by hammad aziz on (January 22, 2012, 8:13 GMT)

well ian bell he is said to be the best of spin in english ranks.But he had his alarming/warning bells when he was bamboozled by brilliant doosra's.INSHAAllahPAKISTAN WILL WIN &SAEED AJMAL'S PEHLA(NORMAL),DOOSRA(OTHERONE )&TEESRA(JALEBI) ALL will be hard for england to pick.

Posted by asim on (January 22, 2012, 7:45 GMT)

Great Article. Couldnt stop laughing

Posted by Niroshan on (January 22, 2012, 7:35 GMT)

Marvellous article . Thanks for composing such an entertaining and true piece . . If a spinner goes without wickets then no one will say anything . But as soon as he starts to take wickets all of them start saying things about his action . All too familiar ...right . .

Posted by Ehsan on (January 22, 2012, 6:52 GMT)

The planned holding of giant rubber protractor by Nasser Hussain in front of the camera everytime Ajmal bowls: why can't we come up with such innovative and distracting ideas for opponents - a food for thought for Pakistani TV channels.

Posted by Sal on (January 22, 2012, 6:23 GMT)

Although as a Pakistani I am delighted to see the team perform consistently, quite frankly this is NOT how I want to see them play.

I mean what makes test cricket so wonderful is the sight of menacing fast bowlers (you know like Shoaib Akhtar, Flintoff, Akram types) intimidating and planning dismissals of top and middle order batsmen. And the batsmen reacting by hooking short pitched deliveries for 4s and 6s. That battle of the ball and the bat is what would make me watch test cricket.

Obviously I am not saying they should ban spinners or anything like that, but to bring on spinners after the first couple of overs of fast bowling is a bit too much.

Misbah may be doing what is required to win, but I never like watching Pakistan go into a 5-day game with just 2 fast bowlers. Both Gul and Cheema are medium pacers really. This guy Talha sitting on the bench is said to be fast...he and Gul should make for a good opening attack. Cheema and the spinners can come in a bit later.

Posted by yafis on (January 22, 2012, 6:09 GMT)

Can somebody please tell the British that subcontinent and middle east are geographically distinct.

Posted by saud on (January 22, 2012, 4:40 GMT)

Best I have read on cricinfo in a very long time.

Posted by sarfraz on (January 22, 2012, 4:34 GMT)

Waow this article is quite funny, if English batsmen are not able to play Doosra then ICC should abandon it. Where is "Teesra", its coming on the way, for a time being Doosra is enough to get 10 wickets. The writer of this article is English supporter...Don't worry writer English team will get another kick soon.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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