ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Dubai, 2nd day

England's perseverance overcomes conditions

With little pace, little turn, little bounce and little chance of any reverse-swing, England's bowlers had to dry up runs to take wickets, and their patience went some way in making up for the first day's batting failure

George Dobell

January 18, 2012

Comments: 104 | Text size: A | A

With ten minutes of play remaining and just five wickets down, it looked as if England were facing the prospect of a daunting first-innings deficit in Dubai. Pakistan's lead was approaching 100 and their increasingly talismanic captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, was still at the crease. England's hopes of retaining a foothold in this Test were slipping away.

Two late wickets, however, brought England back into the game. The loss of Misbah, in particular, exposes a fragile looking tail and raises the prospect that Pakistan's lead, which at one time looked as if it could be crushing, might now be little more than useful.

It was no more than England deserved. On a pitch that offered them little, they probed and pressed until, finally, Pakistan buckled. Every one of the attack could feel well satisfied with their day's work.

It was a day that spoke volumes for the spirit and character within the England dressing-room. A weaker team might have lacked the patience or discipline to sustain the plan of attack England required. A weaker team might have allowed itself to become divided after their batsmen let them down so badly on the first day. But then a weaker team probably would not have recovered from the positions England clawed back against Australia in Brisbane and against India at Trent Bridge, and ended last year as the No. 1 ranked team in Test cricket.

Make no mistake: Pakistan are still in the stronger position. The largely self-inflicted damage England suffered on the first day may prove too serious to recover from, and a lead of 96 with power to add is not to be underestimated. Yet, when Pakistan look back on the second day, they will surely reflect that they squandered a wonderful opportunity to put this game beyond England's reach. Indeed, it is just possible that Pakistan have surrendered their best opportunity of winning the series.

Perhaps words such as 'squandered' and 'surrendered' are unfair. Pakistan were not, for the most part, remotely careless. They were just worn down by England's disciplined bowling. On an absorbing day of Test cricket, England earned wickets through persistence, intelligence and skill.

Stuart Broad had Azhar Ali caught behind for 1, Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Dubai, 2nd day, January, 18, 2012
Stuart Broad picked up two wickets in an admirably mature performance © Getty Images

This is not the sort of pitch where bowlers can expect to run through a side. There is little pace, little turn, little bounce and, because of the small square and relatively grassy outfield maintaining the shine on both sides of the ball, little chance of any reverse-swing.

Instead England had to apply pressure. They had to dry up Pakistan's run scoring opportunities and wait for mistakes. They had to ensure that, even if Pakistan were going to grind out a big total, it would take them as long as possible to achieve it.

The attack responded admirably. None of the fast bowlers conceded more than 2.76 an over, with Stuart Broad producing an admirably mature performance and Jonathan Trott's mean spell before the second new ball, which claimed Younis Khan as his third Test wicket, a huge bonus. Chris Tremlett cut down his pace and probed away on off stump, while James Anderson showed that he is not just reliant on a swinging ball to fulfil a useful role for England.

Graeme Swann, lacking the doosra that makes Saeed Ajaml such a dangerous bowler, instead gave the ball more flight and bowled a line wider of off stump than Ajmal. His figures stand no comparison, but Swann's performance was not much less impressive. Put simply, Ajmal had the substantial advantage of bowling to batsmen who appeared hapless against spin.

There were several occasions when it appeared Pakistan were on the brink of establishing a match-defining platform. Each time, however, England were rewarded for their perseverance with a crucial wicket. Pakistan were only 78 behind with all ten wickets in hand when Broad produced a beauty to dismiss Taufeeq Umar, while the wickets of Mohammad Hafeez, with a century at his mercy, and Younis, who was batting with an easy class that promised great things, also came just as Pakistan were re-establishing their dominance.

Then, with the close beckoning, Swann spun one back to defeat Misbah's forward prod. Until that moment Misbah, patience personified, had appeared as unforgiving as the desert that surrounds this ground and just as tricky to dislodge. With the captain gone, England struck again: Abdur Rehman was defeated by a beauty that nipped back from James Anderson. England were just about back in the game.

"We're still in a good position," Hafeez said afterwards, sounding as if he were trying to convince himself as much as anyone else. "We were expecting a few more runs - we're a bit down on what we were expecting - but we are still happy. We are in control of the game and, with two spinners in our side, we are in a happy position. It is the nature of this pitch to turn more as the game wears on."

Indeed it is. But with Pakistan batting last, Hafeez's words could comfort England just as much as Pakistan.

England were both delighted and relieved. "We batted really badly," Broad said, "but one of the strengths of this team is that we are forward looking. We try to learn from our mistakes but we don't dwell on the past. We knew it would be tough today. We're chasing the game a bit so it was a really good bowling performance. We wanted to concede fewer than three runs an over and hopefully we can polish them off for another 20 or 30 tomorrow. Now the batsmen need to score big hundreds and put the wrongs right. It won't be easy chasing anything over 200."

Perhaps not. But, so far in this match, the players who have succeeded are the ones who have utilised the old-fashioned virtues of playing straight, bowling straight and showing patience. This Test could well be decided by which team can maintain those skills under pressure on the final three days.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 104 
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Posted by narsimha on (January 21, 2012, 14:41 GMT)

JG2704-It appears that ur are not following the india -aus theads regularly other wise u would not have opinioned in this manner ,u people have not spared indian team even in aus, lot of demeaning coments , our friend 5wombots memory just struck on the grand victiries of ur team over india in ur place , i never gave any excuses on our teams dismal performance in eng &aus where baring these present disaster tours ours is the only team fron subcontinent which performed better than ur team in india during the last decade , u people pretends as if we had never won a test in ur plce & our greats never scored in seaming conditions that pains most as all our top 4 having 50+ave in eng , sachin has averaged better than his carrier ave @59, in eng , see how u people comenting on him , the reason for most indians appearing on this page is mainly now it proved that every team is pathetic once it comes out from its cofort zone, only ind is not exception ,as branded by majority of ur people ,

Posted by John on (January 20, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

@jmcilhinney on (January 19 2012, 04:02 AM GMT) Why not - Monty for Morgan? On this tour's performances you could leave out KP or Bell but it's not so drastic dropping Morgan who is the only Eng batsman who's averaging (significantly) less than 40

Posted by John on (January 20, 2012, 23:17 GMT)

@g.narsimha on (January 19 2012, 04:44 AM GMT) - These are English related threads and we have a load of Indians coming on here and the majority here just to gloat and snipe etc. If you came on these boards to add anything constructive to the threads then I myself would tell 5Wombats to give it a rest , but when you or your fellow countrymen come on England threads purely to say stuff like , undeserving number 1 , can't play spin , lucky India was injured , will get thrashed lol , he he , ha ha etc then do you expect us to just say nothing back? We're getting more jibes etc from your fans than the Pakistan fans who actually won the test. At least our fans aren't going on to the Aus/Ind or SA/SL boards to support another team just because we're in bad form. How sad is that? I actually wish India would win a test against Aus to restore a bit of pride etc but I start to doubt my feelings when we are constantly bombarded with these petulant jibes etc

Posted by imran on (January 19, 2012, 17:19 GMT)

News: Pakistani bowlers took an offence from the article by George Dobell and cleaned up English players again in second innings.

Next time write a fair article so we can view an even contest. ;-) :-)

Posted by narsimha on (January 19, 2012, 15:47 GMT)

BRAVO BRAVO URteam is doing well so enjoy why u bring indias performance in ENG, AUS. now it proved beyond doubt that every team struggles once it comes out of its comfort zone only india is not bad out side, in that metter what was ur performance in AUS last time with full strenghted pak team it was white wash , so forget india, enjoy your cricket as we all also enjoying this match ,the poms are proving they are still bad travelers specially to this part of world ,

Posted by Srinivas on (January 19, 2012, 14:58 GMT)

Part 2: The sooner England realise that they should prepare sportier tracks in their country, the better for their batsmen and bowlers. The unidimensional monotonous grassbowls they have at home are the reason why England has been a poor team historically providing their players (both batsmen and bowlers) a false sense of comfort. May be ECB should send their batsmen to our domestic tournaments to develop the skills needed to play against good bowling in challenging batting conditions on our sportier tracks. I thought most of the England's players looked like fish out of water on a track that challenged every player's skills. I hope David Lloyd will now tweet -"England will probably have one of those "reviews". These are their best players but they can't play pace and spin in challenging conditions on sportier tracks, even after 150 years of playing cricket. Solution: pitches at home." Well done my Pakistani Brothers. Thanks for this happiness in 2012 - an Indian here. Please publish.

Posted by Srinivas on (January 19, 2012, 14:57 GMT)

Part 1: As I said yesterday, most of this article was utter drivel. How in the world the final unknown lead, when the known lead is already 96, will be just a little more than useful? And also as I said yesterday about Conditions - What conditions? Conditions were not tailor made for unidimensional cricket and so obviously the wicket was not doctored just for the pacers. There was just enough pace, just enough turn - bowlers have to be skillful to succeed. Not much bounce - Batsmen have to be extremely skillful to succeed when the ball doesn't bounce as much or doesn't come on to the bat. You can hardly term these as bowler unfriendly. They are batsmen unfriendly too. That's a level playing field, to be precise. Go ask your batsmen. They will tell you if these are batsmen friendly batting paradises. When commentators and authors have no clue about what they are talking/writing, they will mislead their team and it happened with India also when we were winning. Please publish. (TBC)

Posted by Ali on (January 19, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

I disagree with ARDjango atleast regarding Auzzies.. England yes a gud test team in England & Australia, but not so gud in subcontinent.. Australia is Awesome in Australia, and still v.gud in subcontinent. Australia is true No.1 test team, no offense to Africa, u had ur chances but u wasted both times. Yes Africa is No.2 Test team, and they can play all around the world.. India V.gud in subcontinent, but poor overseas... Pakistan getting better, hope we see aamir soon to help pak get even stronger...

Posted by John on (January 19, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

@SunnyD on (January 18 2012, 20:08 PM GMT) - The conditions meaning batting friendly conditions which Pakistan are much more used to than England. England's innings was also on a batting friendly pitch although our batsmen performed woefully and Ajmal in particular bowled very well. The difference is that Englands batsmen were poor. If Broad and co bowled at the England batsmen on day 1 they too would have got the team all out for less than 200. The difference is that Pakistan batsmen have batted very well , as you would expect of a team on the up.

Posted by John on (January 19, 2012, 9:24 GMT)

@wiiCricket on (January 18 2012, 19:00 PM GMT) - Well according to many on these boards Englands number 1 ranking is due to luck and is undeserved so surely cricket writers also have the right to interpret things how they want to. And@wc1992 on (January 18 2012, 20:28 PM GMT) If we're talking biased interpretations , why did Younis not review the decision if he was not out?

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