I’m a bit torn trying to guess England’s prospects for the third Test. On the one hand they haven’t played as poorly as they did in the fourth innings since the 51 all out debacle at Sabina Park three years ago, but at the same time they were in front for the first three days of the Test and even a slightly better performance would have seen them level the series.
It was a popular statistic going into the second Test that England had not lost back to back Tests since losing the second and third Tests against South Africa in the summer of 2008. It was a mark of the resilience of the side, but with that string of results being broken and the batting looking as frail as ever they will have to find even more to prevent their first whitewash since the 06/07 Ashes. (Which was also the last time we lost three matches on the trot). I do not doubt the motivation of the side, but I do worry about whether the batmen can overcome both their technical deficiencies and what now appear to be major mental blocks. This is why bringing someone new like Steven Davies may help, as he was not part of those collapses and hopefully would have a more positive outlook. A fully fit Jonathan Trott will also help England a lot, as the fact that the batting order was shuffled certainly did not help England in their chase of 72. I will reiterate, however, that I don’t think Ravi Bopara should come into the side. Morgan’s problem is that he cannot score runs when England are under pressure and Bopara has long since proven that he has the same weakness. He can make runs against mediocre attacks, but I very much doubt he will improve the side at all in Dubai.
Any proposed changes are mostly just window-dressing, however; England simply have to bat better in these conditions. We have a very accomplished batting order that includes the best opener in the world, a number three who averages over fifty, a number five who averaged over 100 last year and the best ‘keeper-batsman in cricket. It is not a top seven that should be averaging 18.77 even in alien conditions. There have been some scores, Alastair Cook’s 94 is actually the best in an innings on either side, so we know they can play, but for whatever reason they are getting trapped in a negative mindset and failing. Flower will be working on that, but I would not want to predict the results.