Pakistan v England, 2011-12 February 7, 2012

England fail first trial by spin

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
Facing up to quality spinners in foreign conditions, the England batsmen were found severely wanting in both their technique and application

For the second time in recent months, the top-ranked Test team was trounced in an away series. Six months back, it was India who were whitewashed 4-0 by England, who subsequently assumed the mantle of world No 1. Now, in their first series against Pakistan at a neutral venue, England have been stunned 3-0 on pitches that provided a fair deal of assistance to spin. The England batsmen had virtually no clue against the variations of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, who went on to share 43 of the 60 wickets. Throughout the series, England's bowlers kept their team in the hunt, but the batting, which had been a cornerstone of their recent success, completely came apart. Given the fact that no team had scored more centuries in the last two years, it was almost shocking that not a single England batsman managed a hundred in the three-Test series. It was the first time since 1999 and only the eighth time overall that England have gone through a full series (three or more matches) without a single century. Pakistan's remarkable win was also their first ever series whitewash of England and only the second suffered by England against teams other than Australia and West Indies.

Low-point for England's batting
After being dominated in the first Test, England's fine bowling displays gave them control initially in both the second and third Tests but poor batting performances meant they could not consolidate their position in either. England, who were bowled out for under 200 four times, had a similar batting failure only once in the last five years (in Australia 2006-07) when they were dismissed for sub-200 scores five times in a 5-0 whitewash. England's batting average in the series (19.06) was their lowest since 1888 and their lowest in a series where they have lost all Tests. However, their bowling performance in the series ensured that the average difference (-6.70) (difference between batting and bowling averages) and wickets difference (10) for England is not terrible. However, considering the bowling quality they were up against while facing powerful Australian and West Indies teams in the past, England's batting performance in this series is shown up in very poor light.

England's batting and bowling stats in series where they have been whitewashed (3-plus matches)
Opposition Year Result Batting average Bowling average Average diff 100s (England/opposition) Wickets (England/opposition)
Australia 1920-21 5-0 28.35 46.13 -17.78 4/10 73/98
Australia 1979-80 3-0 23.03 33.15 -10.12 1/2 46/60
West Indies 1984 5-0 23.34 42.28 -18.94 4/7 63/96
West Indies 1985-86 5-0 20.20 41.72 -21.52 0/4 55/100
India 1992-93 3-0 26.05 57.28 -31.23 2/4 28/60
Australia 2006-07 5-0 26.35 52.77 -26.42 3/9 59/96
Pakistan 2011-12 3-0 19.06 25.76 -6.70 0/2 50/60

Tourists' batsmen fail to stand up
From the high of the triumphs in the Ashes and the India series, England's batting order hit rock bottom against Pakistan. Not only did they fail to register a hundred, they also averaged just 19.06. Their top-order (1-3), including the successful opening pair of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, struggled and averaged just 26.22. Pakistan's top three fared much better (average 35.20) but were far from consistent. The Pakistan batsmen completely dominated the middle-order (4-7) numbers, scoring nearly twice the runs and averaging 31.45 to England's 15.81. On more than one occasion, England's lower order batsmen (8-11) came to the rescue after the top order had failed. They scored 273 runs at 13.65 and performed much better than the corresponding Pakistan batsmen, who failed to put up a fight, with only 85 runs at an average of 5.66. Overall, the top seven batsmen for England averaged just 20.50, their third-lowest average in a series of three or more matches and their lowest for nearly 76 years.

Batting stats for the teams in the series
Team Top-order (1-3)- runs/avg Top-order (1-3)- 100/50
Middle-order (4-7)- runs/avg
Middle-order (4-7)- 100/50
Lower-order (8-11)- runs/avg
Lower-order (8-11)- 100/50
Pakistan 528/35.20 1/3 629/31.45 1/4 85/5.66 0/0
England 472/26.22 0/3 348/15.81 0/1 273/13.65 0/1

England's poor batting form is quite clearly reflected in the partnership stats. Cook and Strauss fought hard but were seldom able to convert on starts. Pakistan's openers, on the other hand, did a much better job and were also involved in a century partnership in the first Test. However, Pakistan's second-wicket average (8.60) was their fourth-lowest in a series (min five partnerships). England enjoyed a better performance for the second wicket but had no other significant contribution from the middle-order stands. Ian Bell's woeful form meant that the fourth-wicket partnership for England (5.50) is their lowest ever in a series (min five stands). Overall, the series witnessed four century stands of which Pakistan contributed three.

Partnership stats for teams (wickets 1-7)
Partnership wicket England (Runs/avg) England (100/50 stands) Pakistan (Runs/avg) Pakistan (100/50 stands)
1 117/19.50 0/0 226/45.20 1/1
2 223/37.16 1/0 43/8.60 0/0
3 138/23.00 0/1 318/63.60 1/0
4 33/5.50 0/0 139/27.80 0/1
5 113/18.83 0/0 225/45.00 1/1
6 97/16.16 0/0 117/23.40 0/1
7 98/16.33 0/0 40/8.00 0/0

Spinners call the shots
The Pakistan spinners picked up 48 wickets in the series at an exceptional average of 15.64. This was the best performance for Pakistan spinners both in terms of wickets and average in a three-Test series. Ajmal, who became the fastest Pakistan bowler to reach the landmark of 100 wickets (19 Tests) during the series, was the top wicket-taker with 24 wickets at 14.70. His tally is the fifth-highest by a Pakistan bowler in a three-match series. He was ably complemented by Rehman, who finished with 19 wickets at 16.73. The England spinners were not too bad themselves, with Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann picking up 27 wickets between them. Panesar, in particular, justified his inclusion, by finishing with 14 wickets at an excellent average of 21.57. However, Stuart Broad was England's best bowler in the series, ending with 13 wickets at 20.46. In the end though, it was a series in which spin trumped pace on all counts.

Pace/spin stats in the series
Bowler type Team Wickets Average/SR 5WI/10WM
Pace England 23 26.52/67.1 0/0
Spin England 27 23.59/57.5 2/0
Pace Pakistan 12 29.00/54.6 0/0
Spin Pakistan 48 15.64/40.2 3/1

Overall, 75 wickets were picked up by spinners. This heavily spin-dominated series is now third on the list of series in which most wickets have fallen to spin (three-Test series). In both the series where the spinners' wicket aggregate has been higher, (Sri Lanka-New Zealand 1998 and Sri Lanka-Australia 2004), the home team spinners finished with more wickets than their visiting counterparts. However in 2004, the Australian spinners led by Shane Warne finished with a much better average (24.27) than the Sri Lankan spinners (34.64) to set up a remarkable 3-0 away win. In the Pakistan-England series, pace bowlers also finished with competitive figures which meant that the average difference between pace and spin (8.87) was not too high. The percentage contribution of wickets for spinners (68.18%) in the series is only higher than the corresponding figure in the Sri Lanka-Australia series, where spinners picked up 64.40% of the wickets.

Pace v spin stats in 3-match series where spinners have taken more than 70 wickets
Series Result Spin (wickets/avg) Pace (wickets/avg) Avg diff % wickets (spin/pace) Spin wickets (host/visitors)
Sri Lanka-New Zealand 1998 2-1 (SL) 79/24.15 20/37.10 12.95 74.52/18.86 50/29
Sri Lanka-Australia 2004 3-0 (Aus) 76/29.59 39/33.20 3.61 64.40/33.05 39/37
Pakistan-England (UAE) 2012 3-0 (Pak) 75/18.50 35/27.37 8.87 68.18/31.81 48/27
Pakistan-New Zealand 1969-70 1-0 (NZ) 71/22.49 26/22.69 0.20 71.71/26.26 43/28
Sri Lanka-India 2008 2-1 (SL) 71/25.71 25/44.16 18.45 73.95/26.04 47/24

Pakistan's spin duo too hot to handle
England came into the series with very little experience of playing high-quality spin in recent years. They were left to rue that fact, as they were all at sea against Ajmal and Rehman. Bell, who scored five centuries in eight Tests in 2011, struggled with his footwork and was tormented by Ajmal's variety, eventually falling to the offspinner four times in 50 balls faced. Kevin Pietersen, who had in the past, done well against top-class spinners like Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan, was never in control and fell to Ajmal three times, scoring just 15 runs in 43 balls. Rehman also troubled the left-handers with deliveries turning in and dismissed Strauss and Eoin Morgan three times each. Cook, England's highest run-getter in the series, never quite got on top of Ajmal, but was able to occupy the crease much longer than his team-mates.

England batsmen against Pakistan bowlers
Batsman Bowler Dismissals Average Balls/dismissal
Ian Bell Saeed Ajmal 4 4.25 12.50
Kevin Pietersen Saeed Ajmal 3 5.00 14.33
Eoin Morgan Abdur Rehman 3 7.33 19.66
Andrew Strauss Abdur Rehman 3 12.66 31.00
Alastair Cook Saeed Ajmal 2 27.50 87.50
Kevin Pietersen Abdur Rehman 2 15.50 48.00

On tracks that had little for pace bowlers, Broad exhibited outstanding control and discipline. Pakistan's centurions in the series, Younis Khan and Azhar Ali, fell three times each to Broad, averaging 15.33 and 13.33 respectively against him. Panesar had the better of Mohammad Hafeez, picking up the opener's wicket three times in 54 balls. Swann continued his good form against left-handers, dismissing Taufeeq Umar twice and conceding just 16 runs.

Pakistan batsmen against England bowlers
Batsman Bowler Dismissals Average Balls/dismissal
Mohammad Hafeez Monty Panesar 3 11.33 18.00
Younis Khan Stuart Broad 3 15.33 30.66
Asad Shafiq Monty Panesar 3 17.00 53.33
Azhar Ali Stuart Broad 3 13.33 52.66
Misbah-ul-Haq Monty Panesar 2 23.00 60.00
Taufeeq Umar Graeme Swann 2 8.00 19.00

Before the series, there were fears of placid tracks and dull draws. However, the series average of 22.10 was the lowest in the three series played in the UAE. Although the pitches kept both the batsmen and bowlers interested, it was the use of the DRS that provided the edge to the spinners. Quite a few reviews were struck down but there were seven not out lbw decisions that were overturned, including four in the final Test. The number of leg-before dismissals (43) was by far a record for a three-match series and proved crucial to the outcome of the contest.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ijaz on February 8, 2012, 17:44 GMT

    TEAM ENGLAND needs for real a Six months " SPINNER'S BOOTCAMP" @ Pakistan to overcome their defeciencies ahead of their tour to SL and India, if they want to competitive and keep their position at #1

  • adil on February 8, 2012, 12:53 GMT

    Haha. SA struggled against Ajmal and Rehman if you can remember. However, not as much as England. I think its time we see how Pakistan plays outside the sub-continent. If they play well, then, i expect Pakistani side at the no.1 spot, pretty soon.

  • ntokozo on February 8, 2012, 11:47 GMT

    Oh well, England can't play spin, so what? Nobody considers this to be a suprise. England should learn from SA. Initially, SA were vulnurable against good spinners. They then put into effect a plan to produce pitches that take turn early on in Test matches in order to get used to playing on subcontinent-type pitches. Ask some visitting spinners, they'll tell you how much they've enjoyed bowling in SA. Bhaji spun India to victory in Durban in 2010, and would have done the same in Capetown where he picked up a 7 wicket haul. It took all of the great Kallis's skill and experience for SA to save the match as he notched up 100s in each innings. Herath spun Srilanka to victory in Durban in 2011 December, and Tahir just about did the same for SA in Capetown in the last match of that series. Swann has picked up numerous 5-fors in SA, and even Harris has spun SA to victory against AUS and INDIA! in SA. A few matches were lost, but the plan has certainly made SA better in the subcontinent.

  • ntokozo on February 8, 2012, 11:32 GMT

    Oh well, what's new? England have never been able to face decent spin bowling. They fell to good (not great!) spin bowling. Their rise to the top was due to playing more matches than SA and Aus (that too playing in favourable conditions). Now SA can take their rightful position as the No.1 Test side in the world. The key to SA sustaining their stay at the top will be a quality spinner. If Tahir consistently helps the side finish teams of on Day4/5 of Test matches (like he did in Cape Town against Srilanka by getting important wickets like Dilshan and Sangakara), then SA have a good chance. The lack of a spinner that can blast sides out in the 2nd innings has always been SA's problem; otherwise they would have been No.1 a long time ago. Otherwise their batting looks very strong and unlike England, most of their batsmen are versatile as they can play spin. Most of them have done well against Ajmal and Rehman. SA will reap rewards for preparing turning pitches in SA. ENG should learn.

  • kieran on February 8, 2012, 10:36 GMT

    What an absorbing series this was! A marvelous win for Pakistan during such hard times; I honestly hope Amir receives some leniency and is available to play sooner rather than later. It's also great to see Broad growing and becoming such a fine player after a petulant beginning. It also great to see that the 06/07 Ashes did actually occur, all the English media & hype had me questioning the very existance of that walloping.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2012, 18:34 GMT


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