I probably don’t need to say how much it hurt to type that title. England were in such a good position yesterday, and Monty bowled so well to give us a very good chance to win the Test and we didn’t even come close. The series is decided now, England will not get the vital result we needed to solidify our status as world number one. We may stay number one, there are few competitors right now, but we missed a chance to prove that we are worthy champions who can win anywhere. For me that is much more disappointing that the official ranking.
England ought to have won this Test. Pakistan played very, very well in the final innings certainly, but there is seldom an excuse for failing to chase 145. Monty bowled so well in his comeback Test and the bowlers as a whole restricted Pakistan to what should have been a very gettable target. They should have been rewarded for their performance. There was an element of ill-luck for England in that Trott was ill and unable to steady the ship at number three as he often does. Instead once Cook was out Bell came in and Bell is still not reading the doosra. This surprises me a bit, as Bell is such a technically good batsman, but he looks utterly out of his depth here. He was made to look foolish, as were KP and Morgan in quick succession (though the last two need no help) and the collapse was on. It is impossible to know how the innings would have played if Trott had been healthy, of course, but his coming in at seven certainly hurt England. The only batsman who held out for any sort of score was the captain. He top scored with an admittedly fortunate 32 and actually played some nice shots. He was relatively comfortable and there was a period when he and Prior were batting that it looked like they might get settled and knock off the runs. In the end he was out in a very predictable way, however, playing back against the spin.
That was the main killer of the English batsmen, playing too much on the back foot. In addition to leaving them vulnerable to being bowled and LBW, the ball was also very seldom on a length conductive to scoring from the back foot. The batsmen were utterly bogged down, and when they got out they had not put many on the board. Andrew Strauss actually batted 100 balls for his 32, and he was one of England’s quickest scorers. To be fair, I can understand why they wanted to play back. With the DRS they were still vulnerable to LBWs even on the front foot and playing back gave them more time to see how the ball was turning. There is a trick to avoiding LBWs on the front foot, however: play with the bat and not the pad. (Easy!) Of course it’s hard to do that if the ball is turning, but they needed to try. Ideally they needed to get to the pitch of the ball and negate the spin entirely, only playing back if the ball was short. It’s very easy for me to say that sat here, of course, but I am surprised that with all the preparation England usually have that they still fell to such a simple thing. It may not be straightforward to read the length of the ball and react so quickly, but it’s not like they have been able to read the spin either. Getting onto the front foot would also open up more scoring opportunities. Only needing 145 to win, it would not have taken much to force the field back and force the bowlers to be more defensive. It must be said though that the Pakistani bowlers did very, very well. They saw the flaw in England’s tactics and exploited it to the hilt. Poorer bowlers would not have been able to trigger a collapse so effectively, and may not have been able to do enough with the runs they had.
The upcoming dead rubber means that England will potentially have a chance to experiment with the side a bit. As I have said more than once, Morgan is not up to Test standard and should be dropped. (After he got out yesterday, I also suggested on Twitter that he ‘sod off back to Ireland’, but I was just cross then. No one deserves that.) I still would not want to see Bopara back in the side, but at this point even he might be a better option. After the first Test I suggested that if there was a dead rubber it might be a good idea to play Steve Davies, however, and I would like to see that happen in Dubai. I would also still like to see five bowers to help shift the sort of troublesome partnerships we have seen from Pakistan in both of the first two Tests, but those are not mutually exclusive. Morgan should be dropped for a long spell, but KP could stand to miss a Test. He has to be hit where it hurts and that is not his batting average, but his ego. Given that England are extremely unlikely to do that or play five bowlers, however, I am going to stick with wanting to see Davies get a cap. I cannot wait until Bresnan is fit and can solve the problem, however.