Pakistan v England 2011-12 February 1, 2012

The peril of premature laurel-resting

Is that recrimination is lurking close by, waiting to nip your backside
25

Sunday, 29th January “And so the Andy who was called Strauss led his disciples into the desert. For three days and three nights they wandered but on the fourth day they rested on the back foot and were caught unawares. There was then much wailing and gnashing of teeth and they returned unto their hotel whereupon they did beat their X-Boxes mercilessly.”

The Greeks didn’t give us the whole picture. Nemesis comes after hubris all right, but they missed out stage three: recrimination, which is the worst bit. Sky’s usual suspects looked like appalled teachers confronted with the evidence that last term’s top student had just been caught smoking in the sixth form toilets. Bob was loftily contemptuous, Botham was steaming and Nasser was definitely not amused.

But are they being fair? England are a good team, they just aren’t as good as all that. There’s no disgrace in losing to Pakistan, who played very well. What’s the problem?

The problem is that England’s media cheerleaders have spent the last six months indulging their fevered patriotic imaginations and now that Strauss and chums have slipped up, the pundits are left feeling more than a little cheesy.

Things were already getting silly a year ago, after England beat one of the worst Australian teams ever to don saggy cloth caps. Then they beat India and silliness readings went off the scale. One writer even got away with listing England’s 2011 vintage as one of the best five Test sides of all time without being immediately arrested and detained in a suitable medical facility for his own safety.

We’ve seen it all before. In fact, this English habit of premature laurel-resting was first noted at the Battle of Hastings when five minutes after the start of play, King Harold, observing that the Normans were struggling to break the English shield wall, declared that the battle was over, his army was clearly the best since the Romans and sat down for an impromptu muffin and mead break.

So now that events have demonstrated that England are somewhat less than invincible, the wronged experts must have someone to blame. I’m no psychic, but I suspect attention will first turn to the least English of the Abu Dhabi failures. Mr Trott’s gastro-intestinal tribulations may earn him a sympathetic reprieve and so scapegoat duties will have to be assigned to either Mr Morgan or Mr Pietersen.

But the blame apportioners are missing the point. Test cricket is more interesting when there is an unresolved scrap for No. 1, and right now there are at least four teams involved in the squabble to be top Test dog. Pakistan are one of them and not just because they have a pair of proper spinners. Misbah’s Pakistan is Patient Pakistan and that is the most dangerous kind of Pakistan you can get.

It was Ajmal and Rehman who dismantled England’s house with their spinning wrecking ball, but the hard work was done on day three by Azhar and Asad, who batted like Geoff Boycott’s older, more circumspect cousins, blunted the tourist’s momentum as though their bats were saucepans and Broad and co were onrushing cartoon cats in pursuit of a runaway mouse, and so set up the final day’s spectacle.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • waterbuffalo on February 4, 2012, 4:34 GMT

    Bring back the benefit of the doubt for the batsmen, please. No more clipping outside of leg-stump dismissals. I bowled for nine years, opening swing bowler, I never got one that even moved toward leg stump, it had to be plumb, and decidely middle and leg . Even then it would be a minor miracle. Leg stump not out, and I bowled in swing. 16 wickets on a first day is ridiculous. In a few years, everybody will be bowling in swing and off spin. Is that want you want to see? Too many wickets down leg side. Later I swung the ball out but why bother if you get leg stump, marginal decisions?

  • Usama on February 3, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    This problem is contagious amongst the English press it seems be it football or cricket. Hail Theo Walcott as the next Messi after his hat-trick against Croatia only to berate him after any dire performance for Arsenal and hail Eoin Morgan as the next best thing and 'an exciting prospect' only to make him a scapegoat. During the spot-fixing series, there were calls for Cook to be removed from the side for the upcoming Ashes campaign; does anyone remember that? Cook just couldn't play Amir and Asif. So Andy, your article just points to a general problem that I, as an outsider, observe with the English media.

  • TD_160 on February 2, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    Pakistan in a scrap for the no. 1 spot? That's a big call. India is definitely no longer in contention, but I don't think there is any one to replace them. If you follow Geoffrey Boycott's criterion for determining the best team (that they have to perform well in all conditions) then South Africa are probably the best. Apart from those two tours in 2001 and '04, Australia have rarely been competitive in India, while England have been woeful on all tours to the subcontinent over the past decade.

  • Ravi on February 2, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    But all of Andy H's humorous yet impassioned defence of England doesn't answer one fundamental question - how did these guys EVER become #1? Maybe it's a scathing indictment of the rest of world cricket that they did!

  • Rob on February 2, 2012, 4:20 GMT

    King Harold references aplenty at cricinfo. Who got in first, Andy Zaltzman or yourself?

  • cric lover on February 2, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    Good article. England are a very good team, but definitely not in the best five test team in history. Happy for Pakistan!

  • Decorum on February 2, 2012, 0:10 GMT

    "...right now there are at least four teams involved in the squabble to be top Test dog. Pakistan are one of them..." Presumably England's one and obviously New Zealand is in there, but who's the fourth?

  • Observer on February 1, 2012, 23:28 GMT

    Quite a fair and unbiased article.

    For contemptuousness, belligerence and arrogance, anyone can go and read Zaltzman.

    But patient elegance as provided by articles such as the one above still remains in a lofty class of its own.

    Well done!

  • Al on February 1, 2012, 21:25 GMT

    "One writer even got away with listing England’s 2011 vintage as one of the best five Test sides of all time without being immediately arrested and detained in a suitable medical facility for his own safety."

    Agree 100%. I read that article with a lot of curiosity and when I reached the bottom, it turned out to be a ploy to drum up an upcoming team (no where near the other 4).

  • Saddam on February 1, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    I believe England will play alot better against Srilanka as well as India in their coming series. Its just that they have encountered Pakistan's "patient side" at the wrong time. Both Pakistani batting and bowling are very controlled and they are harldy throwing it away. England is a free flowing team and they have struggled just because of that.

  • waterbuffalo on February 4, 2012, 4:34 GMT

    Bring back the benefit of the doubt for the batsmen, please. No more clipping outside of leg-stump dismissals. I bowled for nine years, opening swing bowler, I never got one that even moved toward leg stump, it had to be plumb, and decidely middle and leg . Even then it would be a minor miracle. Leg stump not out, and I bowled in swing. 16 wickets on a first day is ridiculous. In a few years, everybody will be bowling in swing and off spin. Is that want you want to see? Too many wickets down leg side. Later I swung the ball out but why bother if you get leg stump, marginal decisions?

  • Usama on February 3, 2012, 5:43 GMT

    This problem is contagious amongst the English press it seems be it football or cricket. Hail Theo Walcott as the next Messi after his hat-trick against Croatia only to berate him after any dire performance for Arsenal and hail Eoin Morgan as the next best thing and 'an exciting prospect' only to make him a scapegoat. During the spot-fixing series, there were calls for Cook to be removed from the side for the upcoming Ashes campaign; does anyone remember that? Cook just couldn't play Amir and Asif. So Andy, your article just points to a general problem that I, as an outsider, observe with the English media.

  • TD_160 on February 2, 2012, 6:35 GMT

    Pakistan in a scrap for the no. 1 spot? That's a big call. India is definitely no longer in contention, but I don't think there is any one to replace them. If you follow Geoffrey Boycott's criterion for determining the best team (that they have to perform well in all conditions) then South Africa are probably the best. Apart from those two tours in 2001 and '04, Australia have rarely been competitive in India, while England have been woeful on all tours to the subcontinent over the past decade.

  • Ravi on February 2, 2012, 5:27 GMT

    But all of Andy H's humorous yet impassioned defence of England doesn't answer one fundamental question - how did these guys EVER become #1? Maybe it's a scathing indictment of the rest of world cricket that they did!

  • Rob on February 2, 2012, 4:20 GMT

    King Harold references aplenty at cricinfo. Who got in first, Andy Zaltzman or yourself?

  • cric lover on February 2, 2012, 2:18 GMT

    Good article. England are a very good team, but definitely not in the best five test team in history. Happy for Pakistan!

  • Decorum on February 2, 2012, 0:10 GMT

    "...right now there are at least four teams involved in the squabble to be top Test dog. Pakistan are one of them..." Presumably England's one and obviously New Zealand is in there, but who's the fourth?

  • Observer on February 1, 2012, 23:28 GMT

    Quite a fair and unbiased article.

    For contemptuousness, belligerence and arrogance, anyone can go and read Zaltzman.

    But patient elegance as provided by articles such as the one above still remains in a lofty class of its own.

    Well done!

  • Al on February 1, 2012, 21:25 GMT

    "One writer even got away with listing England’s 2011 vintage as one of the best five Test sides of all time without being immediately arrested and detained in a suitable medical facility for his own safety."

    Agree 100%. I read that article with a lot of curiosity and when I reached the bottom, it turned out to be a ploy to drum up an upcoming team (no where near the other 4).

  • Saddam on February 1, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    I believe England will play alot better against Srilanka as well as India in their coming series. Its just that they have encountered Pakistan's "patient side" at the wrong time. Both Pakistani batting and bowling are very controlled and they are harldy throwing it away. England is a free flowing team and they have struggled just because of that.

  • Mohtasham K. on February 1, 2012, 17:36 GMT

    Always enjoy reading your blog. Choice of humor is always an exquisite one.

    Pakistan have been experimenting alot, when you are at this very stage you need to make standards and policies. The process of policy making ensures that emotional PCB and players don't into trouble with game and outside game. This also takes care of future tactical + strategic apostrophes.

  • Anonymous on February 1, 2012, 17:01 GMT

    The second time in two days and two articles that English History was invoked to describe games in progress or results; both might be talking about the same match and, even, both references might be the same, I do not recall all that well. But the references are so uncannily similar that they raise suspicions. Are you and Andy Zaltzman, in fact, the same person?

  • Anonymous on February 1, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    Really well written article. I think England have to come back to earth after the series loss and have to plan how to tackle the asian spinning wickets. They have to find answers really quick otherwise their No. 1 ranking can be long gone!

  • imran on February 1, 2012, 15:56 GMT

    Perhaps the losses and the way they came is certainly very unexpected for english fans and media. They are beaten by a better side.

    Pakistan must be given its due share; a team who is perilled to take part in IPL, fewer test matches and no home-cricket..this is class act of character.

  • Andy on February 1, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    Good article.

    It's important to remember that for the first 3 days of that 2nd test England were quite notably the better team on the pitch.

    Yes the result was bad, yes the way it happened was horrible and yes we could all see it going to go that way as soon as we saw the openers walk out and start blocking. but Pakistan aren't a bad team at the moment and this doesn't yet reflect a pattern so let's see how they get on in the next game.

    I also found it amazing that a day or two later articles were appearing on Cricinfo suggesting Pietersen is living on borrowed time even though he has had an excellent last 12 months. That one is easy to address though: who would you prefer in your team? KP or Ravi Bopara?

    I personally wonder if Morgan should move on myself. Not because he jumps all over the crease, bends his knees 12 times during the bowler's run up and then get's out cheaply, only because he's ginger.

  • Moohajar Jerilynangce on February 1, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    Brilliant as usual Andrew! Always look forward to these articles. THe school teachers analogy was spot on! and Charles Colville is at his brilliant best when he is going all headmasterish on us! Great balanced article which amplifies what a benfit a strong and disciplined Pakistan side is to world cricket

  • Kashif on February 1, 2012, 13:46 GMT

    Well said Andy. It is patient Pakistan with solid batting that once ruled the World, bowling has always been a strength of Pakistan. This English squad is capable of achieving greatness but they have to overcome their flawed batting on turning piches, againn their bowling looks as one of strongest bowling squad that I have seen - full of energy and intent.

  • Zeeshan Zahid on February 1, 2012, 13:36 GMT

    very Nice Article!

  • Saleem on February 1, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    Fair judgements with no polarization.

  • David Green on February 1, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    Wonderful article , always have some thing interesting :)

  • safwan Umair on February 1, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    @Andy.....Great Stuff as always, really vital that Pakistan keep their feet on the ground too, these wins were great but lets not over-hype them, real test lies in playing abroad. our aim should be the number one ranking and their is a long way to go yet!

  • Raheel Ahmed on February 1, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    Well very well written article and it seems like people in India and Australia are enjoying this English desert capitulation more than the Pakistanis. I agree with you on the fact that it is far more interesting to have 4 or 5 teams competing to be a top dog in world cricket rather than having team like Windies of 80's n Aussie of 2000's. On a separate note one must spare a thought for Mohsin Khan as he might be jobless after leading Pak to this fantastic victory. Read his interview today and it seems to me that he may not be a technical coach but is very good when it comes to man management n motivating the team and the young guns also seems to respond to him positively. Maybe he should be kept with the team as manager or batting consultant if PCB hire Whatmore. In my opinion replacing Morgan with Bopara is like sending Balotelli in place of Joey Barton for a diplomatic mission. We all know what will happen. Don't we :)

  • Umar Irshad on February 1, 2012, 7:34 GMT

    Really well written article. I think England have to come back to earth after the series loss and have to plan how to tackle the asian spinning wickets. They have to find answers really quick otherwise their No. 1 ranking can be long gone!

  • Ikraam Omar on February 1, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    Love your articles. So true about pundits and nobody is giving Pakistan their due. Looking forward to Eng vs SA

  • Debasis on February 1, 2012, 7:16 GMT

    Love Your articles andy.

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  • Debasis on February 1, 2012, 7:16 GMT

    Love Your articles andy.

  • Ikraam Omar on February 1, 2012, 7:27 GMT

    Love your articles. So true about pundits and nobody is giving Pakistan their due. Looking forward to Eng vs SA

  • Umar Irshad on February 1, 2012, 7:34 GMT

    Really well written article. I think England have to come back to earth after the series loss and have to plan how to tackle the asian spinning wickets. They have to find answers really quick otherwise their No. 1 ranking can be long gone!

  • Raheel Ahmed on February 1, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    Well very well written article and it seems like people in India and Australia are enjoying this English desert capitulation more than the Pakistanis. I agree with you on the fact that it is far more interesting to have 4 or 5 teams competing to be a top dog in world cricket rather than having team like Windies of 80's n Aussie of 2000's. On a separate note one must spare a thought for Mohsin Khan as he might be jobless after leading Pak to this fantastic victory. Read his interview today and it seems to me that he may not be a technical coach but is very good when it comes to man management n motivating the team and the young guns also seems to respond to him positively. Maybe he should be kept with the team as manager or batting consultant if PCB hire Whatmore. In my opinion replacing Morgan with Bopara is like sending Balotelli in place of Joey Barton for a diplomatic mission. We all know what will happen. Don't we :)

  • safwan Umair on February 1, 2012, 9:39 GMT

    @Andy.....Great Stuff as always, really vital that Pakistan keep their feet on the ground too, these wins were great but lets not over-hype them, real test lies in playing abroad. our aim should be the number one ranking and their is a long way to go yet!

  • David Green on February 1, 2012, 12:24 GMT

    Wonderful article , always have some thing interesting :)

  • Saleem on February 1, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    Fair judgements with no polarization.

  • Zeeshan Zahid on February 1, 2012, 13:36 GMT

    very Nice Article!

  • Kashif on February 1, 2012, 13:46 GMT

    Well said Andy. It is patient Pakistan with solid batting that once ruled the World, bowling has always been a strength of Pakistan. This English squad is capable of achieving greatness but they have to overcome their flawed batting on turning piches, againn their bowling looks as one of strongest bowling squad that I have seen - full of energy and intent.

  • Moohajar Jerilynangce on February 1, 2012, 13:54 GMT

    Brilliant as usual Andrew! Always look forward to these articles. THe school teachers analogy was spot on! and Charles Colville is at his brilliant best when he is going all headmasterish on us! Great balanced article which amplifies what a benfit a strong and disciplined Pakistan side is to world cricket