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

England unconcerned by Ajmal's action - Prior


It was as inevitable as it was regrettable that another absorbing day's cricket between Pakistan and England should be tarnished by more controversy.

At a time when Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal should have been talking about the career-best bowling spell that had earned his side the initiative in the first Test, he was instead forced to defend the legality of his bowling action in the post-play media conference. It appears that games between these sides will always be plagued by one issue or another.

Ajmal, utilising all his skill and variation, claimed 7 for 55 as England were dismissed for just 192. Though Ajmal gained little turn from a sluggish surface, there was just enough movement in each direction to send confusion through the English ranks. It was a masterful performance from a fine cricketer.

There were no complaints from the England dressing-room. Matt Prior, the England wicketkeeper, could not have made it clearer. "It's not something we're concerned about," he replied when asked what the England team thought of Ajmal's action. "It's not something we talk about. It's nothing to do with us."

But there were murmurs from former players and members of the media that suggested the issue could well dominate the headlines in the coming days. A waft of sour grapes, perhaps?

The debate was sparked by the former England captain turned pundit, Bob Willis. Willis made the point, a quite legitimate point in context, that England are putting themselves at a disadvantage by not encouraging their young cricketers to bowl the doosra, a delivery that is harder to bowl while maintaining the legal margin of 15 degrees of arm straightening.

There's some truth in Willis' complaint. Very few English coaches encourage the doosra and one of the very few county players who could bowl it with any degree of control and bite, Maurice Holmes, was recently suspended from bowling and released by his county after doubts about his action were raised.

"The delivery that I have a problem with is the doosra," Willis said. "The ICC have accommodated this delivery; they changed the rules to allow these bowlers to bend their elbow 15 degrees, which is what makes it so difficult for the batsmen.

"The authorities are now allowing these mystery spinners, unorthodox offspinners to bend their elbow to a degree. If they are going to be allowed to do that then England have to address this and decide whether we should be teaching our young spinners to bowl like that as well."

Prior, whose performance stood head and shoulders above his team-mates, refused to encourage talk about Ajmal's action. Instead he thought his side had to take responsibility for a poor display with the bat, while acknowledging that any bowler with the ability to turn the ball both ways always presented extra difficulties. Neither did he think that Ajmal's talk of a mystery new delivery - the teesra - had proved to be a successful mind game.

"We have to hold our hands up," Prior said. "We had a bad day at the office. It was a pretty good batting surface and the ball wasn't really turning. We just played a few cross-batted shots when we should have played straight.

"I don't think Saaed got in our heads at all. Any spin bowler who spins it both ways is tricky. His wrist is pretty quick when he delivers the ball so it's pretty difficult to pick him at times and that obviously plays on a batsman's minds, but we have to deal with him a lot better than we did today.

Ajmal also chose to rise above questions on the issue. "I'm just going to concentrate on my bowling," he said. "Umpires and referees are responsible for judging my action. Such questions were raised with Saqlain Mushtaq [the former Pakistan offspinner], too, but we both played county cricket and there were no problems. It's no problem for me that someone in England has questioned my action.

"This was the best performance of my life. I just bowled wicket to wicket and, while I had a good day, England had a bad one. They are all good players and it would be wrong to say that England doesn't play spin well. Andrew Strauss should have played off the front foot rather than the back, but I've worked hard on my bowling against left-handers and I'm very happy to have dismissed four left-handers today."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • I on January 19, 2012, 13:17 GMT

    @TEEPEE1959 you can add Graeme Swann to that list. @TEEPEE1959 you can check out the video of Murali being tested, they slapped a brace on his arm that allowed for no bending or straightening... surprise, surprise, he still managed to bowl the off-spinner, the top-spinner and the doosra.

  • Robert on January 19, 2012, 2:58 GMT

    1992-2007 13 21 685.3 100 2128 59 6/59 11/212 36.06 3.10 69.7 5 1

    Yep Murali really outbowled Australia, bring him on from both ends thanks.

  • Andrew on January 19, 2012, 2:54 GMT

    Earlier post didn't make it. Very unfortunate timing for this. I'm not a Prior fan but he gets a very big tick from me for not buying into this new controversy. I remember him him in Oz as having an odd action, but not in terms of chucking. From memory, he seems to stop at point of delivery, almost to the point where you don't think he'll bowl. I don't recall anything untowards about him. If his action is that obvious - it should make picking the doosra easy, (Bell please take note!) LOL!!!!

  • hayden on January 19, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    @johnathonjosephs do you really believe when murali went to the uni of wa for testiing he bowled as he would in a match? no of coarse not he bowled with a straight arm, just like ajmal when he was tested. they dont bowl the variations like they would in a match, they bowl deliveries to clear their name not to get batsmen out in university nets! when they go back to competative cricket then the bent arm deliveries come back into their bag of tricks! and the only thing murali has over shane warne is a lot more bangledesh and zimbabwe wickets. infact take bang and zim out of the equation and warney has more test wickets!

  • Dummy4 on January 18, 2012, 19:11 GMT

    Teeesraa .. On the roar ! Respect Legend !! Those who hates you are your biggest fans.. So Go and Destroy Them !! :D

  • UNNIKRISHNAN on January 18, 2012, 17:18 GMT

    what does saeed ajmal, shoaib akhtar and harbhajan have in common? they never bowl in short sleeve shirts...why? to make their bend arms look less obvious !!!!

  • Dummy4 on January 18, 2012, 9:49 GMT

    Well what Bob has said was if ICC approves bending arm for 15 degrees why not training English bowlers in doosra which is a valuable valuable weapon in an off spinners armamentarium. Finallywe should be glad that English are begining to believe cricket has gone beyond their boundaries and it is evolving day by day with new inventions from all corners of the world .It is high time they should break their cobwebs and open their eyes and move with rest of the world.What Bob has said was need for the English cricket to come out from the framework of orthodoxy and to be more innovative like other countries.We should appluade him for his comments and hope English will learn from his opinions.I believe ICC should come out with a documentary displaying all the bowlers who bend their arms for 15 degrees and the reasons for making it legal as many people still beileve the rule was modified in favour particular bowlers from subcontinent which not the truth.

  • Dummy4 on January 18, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    @ sanjaykn: So your logic is he has to be banned because he gets an unfair advantage? Can we ban modern day bats and shorter boundaries while we are at it then? Oh and flat pitches too! Oh and natural athleticism that some cricketers have that others don't. Ban away, sir.

  • suresh on January 18, 2012, 9:34 GMT

    An outsider comment should be left alone. I am sure any spin bowler whether English or otherwise would try whatever variation he can bowl. It is for the Umpires to decide if there is any illegality in the bowling action. If Ajmal could bowl in England without being called, where is the issue ? Lets not read too much in to Willis' comments.

  • Dummy4 on January 18, 2012, 9:26 GMT

    @ Sanjaykn..LOllz on u boy.. or you a cricket fan? I think you are talking about anything else..because you are declaring saqlain mushtaq action also doubtful..u know he is the spinner who always bowl with fair action. his doosra also do not need to bend his elbow. A simple and straight action he got. he did doosra with finger powers..if he s doubtful then what is bhajji doing..And Boy just checked our history from Sarfraz nawaz , Imran khan to JUnaid khan and Gul. we produced magnificent fast bowlers..thats the frustration you got that you could not produce any single fast bowler. You know i have played a lot of club cricker. and your bowler like Vinay KUmar are not suitable for our club side..there r plenty of bowlers like Vinay Kumar in our street..lol

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