Pakistan v England 2011-12 January 20, 2012

Defeat could herald new era for England

England's coach Andy Flower has backed his team's ability to bounce back from severe setbacks to help them recover in the UAE

As wake-up calls go, England's thrashing at the hands of Pakistan was more a bucket of cold water thrown in the face than a gentle hand on the shoulder and a warm cup of tea. England weren't just beaten, they were overwhelmed.

It's happened before of course. In Perth in December 2010, Johannesburg in January 2010, and Leeds in August 2009, England were dealt equally emphatic defeats. And each time they bounced back with admirable resilience.

This time feels different. On each of the other occasions that England have suffered a heavy defeat since Andy Flower was appointed permanent coach, it has been quite reasonable to dismiss it as an aberration. England had played well previously and there was no reason to think that anything had fundamentally changed. Perhaps it will turn out to be the same this time. Perhaps, in a few weeks, we will look back on this Test as nothing more than a blip.

But there are key differences. This time England are playing in Asian conditions. This time England have no track record upon which to draw comfort. This time could mark the start of a new era.

Flower knows all this. He knows England are in unchartered territory and he knows they cannot live on former glories. He knows, too, that this is the first of three Asian tours within 12 months. But he also knows that outward signs of panic or concern are not going to help and he does feel his team can take comfort from the success with which they have negotiated previous hurdles.

"Beating Australia in Australia was a big test," Flower said. "I'm not sure this is a bigger test, but it is a real test. We've got this tour then Sri Lanka, then India, so we'd better get up to speed very quickly. This team has done great things in the recent past but you have to move on. This result is a very good indication that you have to live in the present. Pakistan outplayed us by a long margin in this Test. We underperformed but we can come back from this."

It was the batting that let England down in Dubai. Most shocking was the shot selection of some senior players with Kevin Pietersen, in particular, succumbing to an especially poor shot: guiding his pull down the throat of the fielder positioned for the stroke at deep square leg. But rather than singling out individuals, Flower was keen for the batting unit to take collective responsibility.

"I don't think we were under prepared. It might be fair to say that the lay-off we've had probably means people aren't quite up to speed as we usually are. However, we needed that break."
Andy Flower on England's preparation

"All batsmen are under pressure to make good decisions and it's unfair to single out one batsman," Flower said. "In a number of instances in both innings there were soft dismissals and poor decisions. If you make poor decisions in Test cricket, you get severely punished for it. Our batsmen have a record of making very good decisions and that's part of the reason why we've done so well recently. We've made some incredible first innings scores to put us into position to put the opposition under pressure. On this occasion we weren't good enough to do that.

"Our batsmen have a pretty good record against spin. I don't think it's a matter of reinventing the wheel. They all have their individual strengths and they have to focus on those. Most of our batsmen will recognise they underperformed. We will try to learn from it. One of our principles is to continually improve and we can certainly improve on this performance."

Flower also defended the form of Andrew Strauss. England's captain has recorded just one century in his last 26 Tests and didn't manage one in 2011. His double failure in Dubai meant the whispers about his position are beginning to grow in volume.

"He's a pretty calm bloke and I wouldn't say he's in poor form at all," Flower said. "He looks very composed and compact at the crease. He got out in the first innings to a shot he wouldn't want to repeat and he was unlucky in the second innings. That's how it goes sometimes. He will come back."

Flower dismissed the suggestion that the selection of Monty Panesar would have made any difference. "We all know it was the batting that let us down," Flower said. "Our bowlers did a superb job to bring us back into the game and if we'd batted better in the second innings, we might have been able to put them under some pressure.

"If we'd taken the game into the fourth or even fifth day, it would have been a really interesting game of cricket. The pitch was excellent, really fair for quick bowlers, spinners and batsmen, and there was certainly no blame on that front. But let's have a look at the conditions in Abu Dhabi and we'll make decisions based on what will give us the best chance of winning."

As officials at Dubai Sports City arranged to give spectators with tickets for the fourth and fifth days their money back, Flower elected to give the team a day-off on Friday. The days of "naughty boy nets" are over. England will train on Saturday before travelling to Abu Dhabi on Sunday. But Flower did suggest, after a long break following the ODI tour of India, that some players were not quite "up to speed".

"I don't think we were underprepared or lacking in application," Flower said. "Our preparation in the two first-class games was good and the facilities were excellent. It might be fair to say that the lay-off we've had probably means people aren't quite up to speed as we usually are. However, we needed that break. The players needed a mental and physical break and you can't have it all ways. Our challenge now is to get up to speed for the second Test.

"One of the exciting things is that there are two Tests left so we can still win the series. I'd much rather be 1-0 up but that's not the case. It's going to take a lot of great cricket to ensure firstly that we get level."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • S on January 23, 2012, 17:47 GMT

    I'm a Pakistani fan. Let me just say that we have waited a long time for this ... for Pakistan to play to their full potential, its finally happening and it feels great. I'm just looking forward to the next game, to see two great teams go at it ... so lets enjoy the game and let the game decide for who stands where. Cricket first!

  • John on January 23, 2012, 11:13 GMT

    @tiger11 on (January 21 2012, 12:46 PM GMT) - To be honest , I'm not sure we (Eng) will come back but I am hoping. What a refreshingly honest and decent post from you though. Full respect sir

  • vin on January 22, 2012, 6:36 GMT

    Sri Lanka and India should make turning tracks where the ball turns from tea on day1 and then see how good the English really are,considering they are no1 they should be able to play spin.It would be good to see them skipping around on Asian tracks and see if they have the mettle to be no 1

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    @Sandeep1978: totally agree: there's been as much whingeing about slow, low, spinning tracks by non-subcontinental fans as there has been by subcontinental fans about seaming greentops. *Every* team in world cricket prepares pitches to suit their own bowling attacks: they'd be insane not to. It requires a different skill set to perform as successfully in the subcontinent as a batsman might do on pitches with pace & movement, but it *is*, nevertheless, a skill set that takes years of hard graft to maximise. It's ridiculous to dismiss successful subcontinental batsmen as flat track bullies when so many non-subcontinental batsmen fail so dismally on exactly the same pitches. If the 'flat' pitches of the subcontinent are so easy to play on, how come so many non-subcontinental teams keep coming a cropper on them?

  • Mohan on January 21, 2012, 21:58 GMT

    I can see that some people are doubting Pakistan's results or ability to win more. Please note that while their batting may not be mighty they have always had very good bowlers to draw from - especially for test cricket. I call them wicket taking bowlers and their aim is to snatch the batsmen's wicket and not just contain. I feel Misbah has one of the best appreciation of tactics needed in a test. How many times in the past have teams thrown away the advantage after bowling the opposition for a small score. Misbah made sure that they kept out the oppostion bowling at bay to get the lead he wanted. Please also note that he won a test in England recently and would have probably won the series there if not for the spot fixing scandal. By the way, if he manages to win the next two tests, he will equal Jardine for the top test winning captain of all time (in ratio for captains with 15 or more tests). Pakistan do have a chance of becoming No.1 in tests under him.

  • Binoj on January 21, 2012, 18:02 GMT

    @jmcilhinney I am an Indian fan. Personally I don't care much if my team is #1 or #5 as long as they play to their potential. But same people like you were questioning the legitimacy of India's #1 status till last year. We too went through same thoughts and emotions since we knew that we were #1 not because we were invincible but that we played better than rest of the teams till the disastrous England tour. Good to know that you appreciate that feeling now.

  • GARY on January 21, 2012, 18:01 GMT

    @srivatsan There's nothing like making stuff up is there bud and if I remember rightly Strauss himself scored 158 against india in the WC in India but hat ODi's have to do with anything I don't know.

    @CricketFundas You do realise in England teams play sinners don't you and the wickets spin, that's why Swann averages 24 or whatever it is at home, they've played Ajmal in England and a host of others, so what you've put makes zero sense at all, especially when they play it well at home.

  • GARY on January 21, 2012, 17:50 GMT

    @Mani Chandru LoL so Indians have in the last 3 years have only beat NZ and WI two team that England haven't played away but more than likely would win but England also beat NZ away in 2008, drew with SA in 2009/10, beat Australia away 3-1. More pertinent is the embarrassing hammerings india have been on the end of the past year, why don't you go over to the India v Aus board instead of bleating just because England lost a test, something the rest of the test world has done for quite some time, so no one can do it. otherwise they'll look a bit of a mug. How stupid is everyone going to look if England come back and win the series.

  • John on January 21, 2012, 15:34 GMT

    I'm getting rather sick of people saying that England have to win in the subcontinent to be considered #1. That's complete twaddle. They certainly do not. Any team would have to perform consistently well everywhere to be considered "great", but you don't have to be great to be #1. You just have to have played better overall than everyone else recently and England have done that, therefore they are #1. There's no team at the moment who can claim to be great so does that mean that there's no #1? Any ranking system will be subjective to a degree but the ICC rankings were not created with a bias to any specific team in mind. The #1 ranking will quite possibly change hands a number of times for a while and whichever team holds it will have the best recent record and therefore will deserve it.

  • John on January 21, 2012, 15:11 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas, you and many others keep saying that the England batsmen have a poor record against spin. During the telecast of the first test, they showed the England batsmen's averages against both pace and spin and every one of them was better against spin; some by a big margin. How do you explain that? Could it be that the opinion that England batsmen are poor against spin is based purely on impression and not on any actual objective analysis? If that's not the case, how about you provide some actual evidence?

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