Abu Dhabi, day one

It was a very odd day’s cricket, but England at least shaded it if not won it outright. The day started by England looking like they were going to play both Monty and Finn for long enough to get my hopes up that we were finally going to go with five bowlers, but ultimately only playing Monty. I thought it was a terrible decision at the time; not playing Monty as such, but playing him as part of a four man attack. To me, only having two seamers is too few. It was not as bad as I had thought, England bowled very well, but there were times in the long partnership in the afternoon session in which I think another seam bowler would have been very useful. (Certainly I think he would have been more useful than Morgan batting at six.) But the decision to bowl two spinners looked like a masterstroke during the morning. Swann and Monty bowled in tandem and each picked up a wicket on a pitch that looked like a road.

It was the pitch that was the most unusual aspect of the day. At the start it looked like a flat, fill-your-boots pitch. On TMS Boycott said that England would do fantastically to keep them to 350. As the two spinners took wickets it looked like it might take a lot of turn but there would be nothing in it for the seamers. Broad and Anderson made a mockery of that, however, getting the ball to nip back off the seam and extracting copious amounts of movement with the second new ball. Were it not for three dropped catches (two of them sitters) England would probably already be batting having only conceded about 230. All of which suggests that the pitch was misread at the start, which it probably was, but I don’t think it was so badly misread as to render Pakistan’s total anywhere close to average. To suggest that 256-7 is not a bad total would be to imply that the pitch is as treacherous as the average English wicket in May, which I do not think is true at all. I think the better explanation is that the pitch had a little bit more life in it than was expected, but England simply bowled very, very well. They could have done better, but on a pitch that has seen two high scoring draws and on a still flat looking wicket it was a very good show.

Misbah and Shafiq showed in the afternoon just how easy batting could be. They looked very comfortable as the older ball did not do a lot and could easily blunt England’s attack. (This is where I thought it was a man short.) Their partnership was only ended when Shafiq got himself out with a suicidal mow just before the new ball was due. There’s no guarantee that England’s batsmen won’t go out tomorrow and play the same shot, but with most of them one would back them to have learnt better. (Perhaps not with KP.) Especially with a day of sun on it the pitch will probably be better for batting tomorrow and I think England will back themselves to get at least 400 whenever they get their turn to bat. Depending on how many Pakistan get tomorrow morning (and Misbah is still in to bat with the tail) England should have enough of a lead to put them in the driving seat for the rest of the match.

Today was hard to read, but tomorrow should clarify matters. Usually that means I’ll look like an idiot, mind, but hopefully not this time.

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