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Unlike England, Pakistan used their bats instead of their pads. Unlike England, they retained their composure during the inevitable scoreless periods and, unlike England, they played straight until they were well set
George Dobell in Dubai
February 4, 2012
Report : Younis' century puts Pakistan in control
Audio/Video: Younis showed everyone how to play spin
Matches: England v Pakistan at Dubai (DSC)
Series/Tournaments: England tour of United Arab Emirates
If England were looking for an example of how to play in Asian conditions, they got it today as Younis Khan and Azhar Ali provided a batting master class on the second day in Dubai. With the game in the balance and Pakistan under pressure, the master and his apprentice provided the most assured batting of the series.
Younis has already become the first man to register a century in the series; Azhar may well join him on day three. Their partnership - 194 with power to add - is the highest of the series and has surely struck the decisive blow in this Test.
It will be of little comfort to England in the short-term - bearing in mind their batting so far in this series, it would be a brave fellow who predicted any result other than a Pakistan win here - but the tourists can learn from this experience. They can identify the qualities that helped Younis succeed where they have failed and at least try to incorporate them into their own games.
In the first four sessions of the match 22 wickets fell and the talk was all about the Decision Review System. After lunch on day two, such talk faded away. The reason? Pakistan did not allow the DRS to become an issue because, unlike England, they used their bats instead of their pads. Unlike England, they retained their composure during the inevitable scoreless periods and, unlike England, they played straight until they were well set.
That may all be easier said than done, but England must learn that the days when they could press forward and enjoy the benefit of the doubt are gone. They have to adapt to the new reality that the DRS has brought.
Where the likes of Kevin Pietersen lunged forward with little balance, Younis reached forward with precision. One was batting in hope; the other with the foundation of a strong technique.
Azhar also demonstrated admirable patience and restraint. Like several of the England batsmen, Azhar took a long time to play himself in - after 39 deliveries he had scored just two - but, unlike the tourists, he did not panic. He rode out the tough periods because he had confidence in his technique and temperament to do so. He did not think he might receive an unplayable, mystery ball at any moment, so he backed himself to come through. Test cricket, for all that has changed in tempo in recent years, is as much about mental strength, concentration and determination as it is about raw talent and flair. Azhar is the sort of batsman who remembers it is meant to be a five-day game. It is a fine quality.
It was noticeable, too, how straight the Pakistan batsmen played until they were established. Yes, they used their feet and yes, they hit over the top. But unlike Eoin Morgan, for example, they did not try to turn the ball across the line until they were well set.
It is not just England's batsmen who can learn. England's bowlers can also pick up some pointers from their Pakistan counterparts. Graeme Swann, for all his excellence in recent years, could learn from the wicket-to-wicket approach taken by Abdur Rehman on Asian pitches.
Rehman has enjoyed tremendous success this series - he has claimed 17 wickets at 13 apiece including successive five-wicket hauls - by maintaining an immaculate line or length and posing questions nearly every delivery. He has, at times, found some turn, but it has been variation and subtle changes of pace and flight that have accounted for as many wickets as any turn. Put simply, if the batsmen have missed, he has been hitting. Swann, by contrast, has maintained the line outside off stump that has served him so well previously and, while he has bowled decently, has not enjoyed anywhere near the same level of success.
|England can either search for excuses - and to their great credit, that has not been their style in recent times - or search for answers. If they blame the DRS, unusual bowling actions, the alignment of Jupiter in the house of Mars or any other detail, they will be delaying their journey to recovery.|
Monty Panesar might have been ill-advised. By bowling over the wicket, Panesar reduced his chances of claiming a leg-before decision and largely took the DRS out of the equation. It was also noticeable that England were urging him to bowl quicker and, as a consequence, he appeared to lose his rhythm and flight. He gained little turn.
England also missed a third fast bowler. Omitting Panesar or Swann was hardly an option, but the burden of three back-to-back Tests on James Anderson and Stuart Broad is beginning to tell. It is not as if their batsmen are providing them much recovery time, after all. Until England find an allrounder who can contribute fully with bat and ball - and Tim Bresnan, who arrives back to the squad on Sunday, might be that man - the balance of their side will be an issue in Asian conditions.
England's bowlers could be forgiven for feeling somewhat ill-used of late. Despite their hard work and success in this series, there is every chance that their side will succumb to a 3-0 whitewash; an indignity for the No. 1 ranked Test side. They have dismissed the opposition for scores of 99, 214, 257 and 338 yet their side still cannot win. What more, they might ask, do they have to do? For the first time in many months, England's fast bowlers looked just a little off-colour in Pakistan's second innings. It may well be that their team has just asked too much of them.
Perhaps England were a little unfortunate. The pitch had eased somewhat from the first day and, by the afternoon, provided precious little help for bowlers of any persuasion. But it was England who should have been able to take advantage of those conditions. After bowling out Pakistan for 99 in their first innings, they should have capitalised on the advantage and built a match-winning position on day two.
Besides, it is unwise for anyone to put all their travails down to poor fortune. England can either search for excuses - and to their great credit, that has not been their style in recent times - or search for answers. If they blame the DRS, unusual bowling actions, the alignment of Jupiter in the house of Mars or any other detail, they will be delaying their journey to recovery.
Only five teams have won a Test having been bowled out in the first innings for under 100 and the last occasion was in 1907. Pakistan have earned a wonderful opportunity to become the sixth over the next couple of days.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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