Pakistan v England, 4th ODI, Dubai February 21, 2012

Series where seeds have been sown for 2015

This series could have produced some early pointers on each side's development towards the 2015 World Cup

In years to come, it is likely that few will remember the Bank Alfalah Presents the Mobilink Jazz Cup Series particularly warmly. It was, after all, just another series in an overcrowded schedule contested by two middle-ranked sides taking their first steps on a road that leads to the 2015 World Cup.

But, should either one of these sides go on to lift that trophy, perhaps they will reflect that it was the seeds sown in the course of these four games that bore fruit.

England, in particular, have made demonstrable progress over the last couple of weeks. Despite their debacle in India, England have now identified a squad of players that they believe can serve them over the next few years and develop and improve in the process. This was their first clean sweep against a major Test-playing nation since 2008, when they defeated South Africa with one game lost to rain. England have now leapfrogged Pakistan to go fifth in the ICC ODI rankings.

More importantly, a few issues have been resolved. The opening partnership of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen now appears to have been set in stone; Steve Finn has emerged as a seamer capable of leading the attack alongside the likes of Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan; while Ravi Bopara, Craig Kieswetter and Samit Patel also contributed.

Pietersen's success was the most eye-catching. Coming into this series he had struggled for form for some time: he had made just three half-centuries in his last 36 ODI innings and had not made a century since November 2008. His promotion to an opening position looked like the last throw of the dice.

How quickly things can change. Now, after two centuries in succession, he might just be back to his best. This was an immensely impressive performance. It was not just that it was his longest innings, his highest innings or that it brought him level with the record held by Graham Gooch of 28 international centuries for England, it was that he did it with his side under pressure. From 68 for 4, it took great composure and skill to time this chase to perfection. He later rated it "probably the best" ODI innings of his career. It is hard to disagree.

They must improve their fielding. It is rare that Pakistan cling on to a 50-50 chance. Julien Fountain, who will shortly be appointed as fielding coach, has his work cut out.

Cook was scarcely less impressive. He has taken huge strides as a leader and a batsman in the last few days and has merited his man of the series award and his call-up to the England T20 squad. All doubts about his position are surely dispelled.

Perhaps most reassuring from an England perspective was their "bench strength". England made four changes for this game, with their three senior bowlers - Graeme Swann, James Anderson and Stuart Broad - all rested and Ravi Bopara's sore back ruling him out of contention. While Jos Buttler endured a tough baptism, Danny Briggs, Jade Dernbach and Tim Bresnan all bowled impressively. Young men, even young men so extravagantly gifted as Buttler, do not come with guarantees. But he and Ben Stokes still have every chance to force their way into the 2015 reckoning. They are too good not to come again.

Craig Kieswetter also impressed in the final game. His keeping is still not as polished as he would like, but it has improved and will continue to do so. England have invested a great deal of time in Kieswetter. Now is not the time to abandon the plan.

There was a little encouragement here for Pakistan, too. The partnership between Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq provided a glimpse of their future direction, while Adnan Akmal, too, provided some stability behind the stumps. Yes, Azhar might have to develop his range of strokes, but in a side that struggle to bat through their overs, his solidity is not to be dismissed.

They have more concerns, though. The balance of this side, with five spinners and just one seamer, might be useful for pitches here, but it will be of little use in Australia or New Zealand, where the 2015 World Cup will be contested.

The batting is fragile, too. They were bowled out in all four of these games and have reached 250 only three times in their last 29 ODIs. Their highest run scorer, Misbah-ul-Haq, is also the oldest player. Aged 37, he is unlikely to make it to the World Cup.

What was the difference between their Test form and their ODI form? Well, in the Test series, Pakistan were able to grind their way to match-winning totals. The likes of Misbah and Azhar could take their time without the pressure of overs ticking away. They were able to play obdurate, attritional cricket. That option is denied them in this format.

Most of all, they must improve their fielding. It is rare that Pakistan cling on to a 50-50 chance and, in their coach and captain's estimations, England improved fielding is worth anything up to 50 runs a game. Julien Fountain, who will shortly be appointed as fielding coach, has his work cut out. He is not an alchemist.

"England improved; they really batted well after the Test series," Misbah said afterwards. "Their top order was the big difference. It is remarkable to score four centuries in four innings. That was the main difference."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on February 23, 2012, 9:49 GMT

    @swwastik123 - PS , We also hadn't won in Australia for a very long time - 23 years in fact - and Australia were pummelling us in many of the test series - unlike India who were beating us by the odd test. You labelled the Aussies as "deflated" well if the Aussies were deflated in test cricket then what does that make India in test cricket now?

  • John on February 23, 2012, 9:44 GMT

    @ swwastik123 on (February 22 2012, 17:59 PM GMT) Depends what you call hit and giggle stuff? Some might say that OD isn't that important either. This possibly is the best ever England side , or at least since the rankings were introduced but as for people saying it's the greatest side ever - you know that's BS. And yes it would be great to win in SL (where we have done in the last 10-15 years) and India (where we haven't) but it's not the be all and end all. Just like winning a OD WC. I'd rather England remained at the top of the tree in the test rankings a didn't win the OD WC than win a WC and then get humiliated 2 away series running

  • John on February 22, 2012, 19:34 GMT

    @S4CHIN_IS_GOD Re "I am Indian fan" - You don't say? - It's also nice to see that you are not living in yesteryear and BTW if you include T20 then England have won a trophy - holders in fact. You say that no one cares about this Side Series so what actually qualifies as a Side Series? If the Test format means more than the OD format then as an Indian you should not be criticising any other test nation and the OD 5-0 whitewash over Eng was also a sideshow .If OD is more important (+I'm not saying it is) then the OD series win trumps the test win over Pak. Actually quite funny that an Indian fan should give advice to anyone right now on how to play cricket after 8 away test thrashings in a row. BTW what was the score between India and Eng in the last WC?

  • John on February 22, 2012, 19:33 GMT

    @Jamal Ahmed Khan on (February 22 2012, 10:46 AM GMT)/ Deuce03 on (February 22 2012, 11:07 AM GMT) That's too much logic for SFY to deal with. It's a shame that generally speaking the respect between Pak and Eng fans has been good and then you get obsessives from other countries trying stir up the boards.

  • John on February 22, 2012, 19:33 GMT

    @Sports4Youth on (February 22 2012, 10:50 AM GMT) PS You say "When ever they have managed to reach the Finals or Semi-Finals they always run into some or the other Rampant Team and get crushed very badly" . The 2 times we reached the final we were beaten by 22 runs in 1992 and 7 runs in 1987 - and that's being crushed badly in your book?

  • John on February 22, 2012, 19:32 GMT

    @Sports4Youth - You have alot to say in your posts. The problem is that you are contradicting yourself all the time. You say that Pakistan are the weakest team in Asia right now , well if you're talking recent form in the tests then Pak whitewashed Eng , Eng whitewashed India and beat SL. So how are Pak the weakest team in Asia on that form? If you are talking on form then Pak are ahead of both India and SL and if you're just talking rankings then England are still top of the test rankings despite the loss. I actually thought you were a Pak fan because you have been on our threads so often but it seems you're just another bitter and frustrated Indian fan with a huge chip on your shoulder. You also say that Misbah's captaincy was the only reason Pak lost and then you say also "Also Pakistan have a chronic fielding problem. Add to that the failuire of Pak Batsmen"- Do you know what the word ONLY means?

  • John on February 22, 2012, 19:32 GMT

    @rahulcricket007 on (February 22 2012, 07:21 AM GMT) - Not that you'll listen if this does get published - but these writers haven't been saying that they don't care about OD cricket. And even most of our fans haven't said we don't care period. Most of our fans on these boards have said that we care much more about how we do in the tests than the ODI's and if you read most of our posts properly we say that the OD series is a decent consolation and maybe a confidence builder. In the test series Pak won fair and square and it hurts. We could all come out with the BS that it was due to injuries (Tremlett and Bres) but that would be BS , although that doesn't stop other nations fans doing the same. BTW thanks for coming on the boards after the test series trying to claim to be a Pak fan and stir it between the 2 sets of fans. A shame no one from Pakistan wanted you on board.

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2012, 18:32 GMT

    M.Hafeez should be the captain of t20 side,misbah should lead one day and test side.For wicket keeping problem,umar akmal should keep in t20,kamran akmal in odi and adnan akmal in test matches.

  • Luke on February 22, 2012, 18:28 GMT

    @ S4ACHIN_IS_PASTIT: first of all England *have* won a trophy, the World T20 cup as well as the Ashes, and the trophey for being no1 in the world and the the Pataudi Trophy for beating India, you remember that, when they got utterly thrashed 4-0? at least in the PAK-ENG test series England did get in a winning position of needing just 148 to win, India in all of the last 8 tests have got nowhere near even that. As for nobody caring about PAK-ENG, i'm sure outside the 2 countries few people did care, just as I certainly didn't care about AUS-IND other than wanting both teams to lose!

  • Swastik on February 22, 2012, 17:59 GMT

    @valavan: And England has been waiting since eternity for a silverware other than that for hit-and-giggle cricket? English cricket needs to win something in the subcontinent. I, however, love how they hype their team as the greatest ever when they win a couple in their backyard, or against deflated Aussies.

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