Pakistan v England, 1st Test, Dubai, 1st day January 17, 2012

Ajmal's seven makes it Pakistan's day


Pakistan 42 for 0 trail England 192 (Prior 70*, Ajmal 7-55) by 150 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Saeed Ajmal took seven wickets for the first time in his Pakistan career as England capitulated in the first Test in Dubai. There was limited turn for Ajmal on a sound batting surface, but his beguiling mix of offspinners and doosras drove England to distraction as they were dismissed by the 73rd over to leave Pakistan firmly in command.

England lost their first seven wickets for 94 and matters would have been much worse without a robust response by Matt Prior, who looked the most decisive of their batsmen from the outset and, with eight down, counterattacked against the spinners before running out of partners.

Pakistan, who batted in untroubled fashion for 15 overs in reply, would have been highly satisfied. They are careful not to describe the UAE as home, but it is fast becoming a favourite refuge. They enjoyed a jubilant first morning, claiming five wickets on a placid batting surface, and Ajmal made further inroads in the last two sessions to ensure that England's first outing as the No. 1 ranked Test side in the world began disastrously.

When Ajmal unveiled his new mystery ball, the teesra, midway through the afternoon session, it proved to be an initial disappointment, a slingy, round-arm affair that Stuart Broad stoutly blocked. But he did not need a mystery ball. To England they were all mystery balls.

When England first encountered Ajmal, at Edgbaston 17 months ago, he took five wickets before they gradually worked him out as the series progressed. They will need to learn quickly again. The battle between Ajmal and Swann, contenders as the best offspinner in the world, could be pivotal.

He was the last Pakistan bowler to be introduced into the attack, but after ten deliveries he had had figures of 3 for 1, removing Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen. England summoned comparative resistance from then on, but Ajmal removed Morgan and Stuart Broad, both lbw sweeping, before tea. Two further lbw verdicts - Chris Tremlett outdone by an excellent doosra - completed the job. For England, only Swann matched Prior's purpose.

England won the toss, the pace of the pitch was gentle, there was no swing or seam, and just a hint of turn. However, just about everything attempted by Pakistan's impressive captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, came off as the cream of England batting disappeared in the first two hours.

There had been concerns about how England, who moved to No. 1 with high-adrenalin performances in front of packed crowds, would respond to the dead air of a virtually empty stadium, especially as their record in Asia is so mediocre - Bangladesh apart they have not won in their last seven Test series on the subcontinent. Those doubts are now apparent to all.

Mohammad Hafeez's offspin was introduced in the sixth over to counter England's left-hand openers and he dismissed Alastair Cook in his first over. Cook attempted to work his first ball into the leg side and got a thick outside edge through point. Then Hafeez found gentle turn with his third delivery and Cook edged obligingly to the wicketkeeper.

Pakistan had opted for three spinners; England stuck to their successful formula of Graeme Swann's offspin supported by three fast bowlers. It was not long before England looked in denial.

Jonathan Trott was the one batsman to fall to pace, the bustling pace provided by Aizaz Cheema. His new-ball spell was curtailed to two overs, but Trott found him a handful on his return. A walking clip to the square-leg boundary represented England's most authoritative moment of the session, but he edged successive boundaries, the second of them flying over leg stump off the inside edge. Trott fell in Cheema's next over, strangled down the leg side as the bowler banged one in.

Ajmal struck with his sixth, seventh and tenth deliveries. Strauss had batted 42 balls for 19 when he misread the length, tried to pull a ball that was too far up to him, and was bowled. Bell came in with his wrist heavily strapped, courtesy of a blow in the nets the previous day while batting against the dog-thrower used by the England batting coach, Graham Gooch. He was met by a perfect doosra from Ajmal, which he edged to give the bowler his third wicket of the morning. Bell did not appear to read it but, first ball at the start of a new series, reading Ulysses would have been easier.

Bell then departed for a long conversation with Gooch, who exchanged dog-thrower for any bone of consolation that he could toss his way.

Misbah had begun by taunting Pietersen with left-arm spin, his nemesis, in the shape of Abdur Rehman. He survived against Rehman, but not Ajmal. Pietersen played slightly across the ball and was hit on the front pad, just outside the crease. Bruce Oxenford, the Australian umpire, was unconvinced but the wicketkeeper gestured excitedly for the DRS and his judgment was well founded, the replay suggesting that the ball would have struck halfway up leg stump.

Morgan, more content than many against spin, was lbw to the slog-sweep, a decision by the Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford that was upheld by the third umpire after England, logically enough at 82 for 5, opted for the DRS. It was a weaker paddle-sweep that did for Broad, who rarely believes he is out, and who also asked for a review; but again television evidence ruled in the umpire's favour.

Only when Swann came to the crease did England play with adventure, a mood that Prior adopted after Abdur Rehman made one turn to strike Swann's off stump. Umar Gul had wasted a Pakistan review in the last over before tea as he demanded a DRS verdict against Swann that had no hope of success. But that was Pakistan's only moment of unprofessionalism in a calm and disciplined performance. Pakistan's jubilation was almost complete.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • addicted_to_chaos on January 18, 2012, 8:58 GMT

    @ reality_check on (January 17 2012, 16:23 PM GMT): You are absolutely correct.... nice post...... For sure England will be back sooner, if not in this test than next two test matches...... @Indian Fans: Stop your wishful thinking by drawing conclusions that English cant bat on slow tracks for reasons that; a) Pakistani bowling is way superior than Indians, b) Pakistani team has no old ghosts in their team

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    This bowler Swan is useless!!! they should have selected Monty Panesar but I guess some elemnts of racism prevented the the English team in selecting him. Ajmal is far superior to Swan and it is quite obvious as to who is the world's best spinner.

    Englih media, thier politicians, their whole system reeks of hypocrissy and double standards. This former colonizer has 0 respect from me and anything their media says is irrelevant!!They will always find excuses to put down another person.

  • addicted_to_chaos on January 18, 2012, 8:48 GMT

    @sanjaykn on (January 17 2012, 15:42 PM GMT) : You should worry more about your indian team being thrashed consistantly..... When guns are too old they starts backfiring, pretty simple example for your ageing old clumsy-lookin batsmen.... fix this n stop complaining about bouncy n fast tracks being reasons for your team's failures in disgusting manners......

  • SATHYARAMANUJA on January 18, 2012, 8:22 GMT

    If you watch the bowling action of Saeed Ajmal, we can clearly conclude that he is a great chucker of the bills and hence no credit for taking wickets by chucking

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2012, 8:00 GMT

    yeah pakistan and show english players ho to play an aay series xD AND thnx for the support indian brothers =)

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2012, 7:50 GMT

    Thanks our fellow India. Brethren for all the encouraging compliments

  • heathrf1974 on January 18, 2012, 7:45 GMT

    I am amused by Indian fans lecturing other fans that winning overseas is important.

  • sachin_vvsfan on January 18, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    @Zia Rehman He remained unbeaten and this innings score will be added to the current avg (as only the num of dissmissals are used in calculating the avg). So there is a chance to increase his avg

  • Dr.Hasan on January 18, 2012, 7:41 GMT

    Interesting comments here. A few things I would like to comment on: Firstly excellent bowling by all the Pak bowlers and decent fielding as well apart from the two missed chances by another Akmal brother! Secondly more Indians commenting here than Pakistanis LOL probably venting their frustration of the hammering they are getting at the hands of the aussies ... which is rather sad. Thirdly whats all this banter about the pitch being spinner friendly or like pitches in india or sri lanka?? The surface is an absolute feather bed with low bounce and minimal spin. It is nothing like the dust bowls we often see in the subcontinent where the pitches spin SQUARE. Pak's first day success is based on excellent bowling and variations by their bowlers which led to suffocating the english batsmen.

    Lastly PLEASE DONOT write off the english team yet, they are the world no.1 for good reason and will fight till the very end so Pak needs to keep their guard up. Best of luck Pakistan :)

  • shahbazhussain on January 18, 2012, 7:29 GMT

    How they are batting is an example for entire cricketing world that if you have patience you can bat well. If you have desire and aggression then you can bowled any team out cheaply no matter if your opponent is #1. So 112-0 opening stand is so exciting to see. It seems like the clone of Aus-vs-India.

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