The Over: Pakistan v England – Day 4

Well thank God that’s over.

A brave(r) effort from England, but ultimately this one proved a bit beyond them. There was a point at 100-odd for 2 that we thought they may have a chance, but a few more limp dismissals sealed the deal. Trott, Bell and Broad particularly were at fault, but for all the talk of the series, actually it wasn’t the case that they were spun out today, with Umar Gul picking up four-for. It’s time to get the shorter-format stuff out of the way ASAP, and then England will probably be all too happy to escape what must seem to them like a sandy hellhole. The series from their point of view is for us nicely summed up by the words of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Ozymandius:

Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Quite.

Ian Bell appears mentally shot, reminiscent of the 12 year old in long shorts we saw against Shane Warne in 2005. His dismissal today was a horrible wipe at a ball that Steve Harmison would have thought was a bit wide. He doesn’t deserve to be dropped, though, after a sensational year beforehand, and we reckon he’ll cope a bit better with Sri Lanka’s slightly less world-class spinners. He’s never going to have Boycott-esque mental fortitude, and we should just accept that there will be occasions when he’s out of form.

Broad slightly blotted his copybook at the end, although for the second time in a row he was probably England’s man of the series. Although we totally agreed with the gung-ho approach the lower order took, Broad has a Test century (against this opposition) and could probably have played with a bit more nous. Trying to drive over extra cover with the first delivery with the new ball was slightly unwise, particularly given that there was a man out just for that shot. Not to take anything away from Stuart, though, whose bowling with its unerring accuracy is starting to resemble Glenn McGrath (although you ain’t quite there yet, m’boy), but he should put his ample batting talent to better use. Still only 25, he could be a scary-good bowling all-rounder in a couple of years.

You’ve got to say that this fall was coming after the hullabaloo following their coronation last summer. As any cynical England fan has learnt by some form of Pavlovian conditioning, a return to mediocrity almost inevitably follows such a media ruckus. As for England’s Number 1 status, it is at least still intact for the moment. If South Africa were to whitewash New Zealand in the upcoming series (whitewashes seem to be becoming rather two-a-penny at the moment) then England would be dethroned, however it’s likely that they will cling on for a while. Their formidable home form should keep them atop the world and if they lose to the West Indies at home, they would utterly deserve to lose their top spot. This is still a very good England team, but they have been found wanting in this series due to a combination of under-preparation and high-quality spin bowling.

It’s the first time since 1907 that a side won a Test after being bowled out for less than 100 in their first innings and England’s lowest average per wicket in a 3+ match series since 1888. You know you haven’t been having a happy time when you’re breaking records willy-nilly that were set over 100 years ago, when a good wicket was one that had either been mowed, didn’t have livestock grazing on it or didn’t have a plough furrow on a length (it would have been an exceptional wicket which fulfilled all three of those criteria). On the upside, such a bad batting performance is not due again until 2136, which happily neither of us will be unfortunate enough to live to see.

For all England’s ineptitude, big congratulations must go to Pakistan. Their bowling was exceptional and their batting, at times, resilient. They made full use of the conditions and were unquestionably the better side throughout. It is great to see that they appear to have finally moved on from some of the horror-shows that have tainted Pakistani cricket in the last few years and we sincerely hope that the next time round England will be able to travel to Pakistan for the Test series (not least because England returning to the UAE would dredge up some horrible nightmares).

Now the Test series is over, this will be our last daily update for a little while. We’ll try to keep you entertained with a few articles a week, and provide a bit of comment on the ODI and T20 series.

Until then…

Over.

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