Lutters’ 2012 winter lines - part two

WORTHING Cricket Club’s Andy Lutwyche looks back on England’s 72-run second Test defeat to Pakistan.

Funnily enough, I was at one England’s “home” grounds as they succumbed to the Pakistan spinners in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.

The groans from the attendees of the cricket exhibition were more than audible with the big screens showing England’s batsmen follow each other across the outfield to and from the pavilion. It looked like a game of follow the leader at a children’s party.

There have been a number of descriptions of England’s second-innings performance, including “abject”, “woeful” and “appalling”, but I’m sure many people can think of more, mainly unprintable, descriptions.

All of coach Andy Flower’s and skipper Andrew Strauss’ promises from the previous batting abomination appeared to be hollow as the same, ugly mistakes reared their heads.

The real disappointment for fans, and presumably players alike, was that England had played themselves into a very strong position in the game, having bowled the hosts out cheaply twice, and batted reasonably in their first innings to give themselves a good lead in a low-scoring game.

Chris Tremlett’s back injury allowed Flower and Strauss to avoid the embarrassment of dropping the Surrey quick, and the bold selection of two seamers and two spinners really paid off, with all four contributing to a solid performance with the ball.

Broad has looked really threatening every time he’s had the ball in his hand and Anderson seems to have learned how to bowl consistently well on placid surfaces, hinting at reverse swing at times.

Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, playing his first Test for a few years, bowled well in tandem, never allowing the Pakistan batsmen to settle. It was interesting that the Sussex man bowled far more overs than the more experienced man from Nottinghamshire, but deservedly so. It will be difficult to change the attack for the next game.

England’s batting is a worry, though, with Strauss, Pietersen, Bell and Morgan looking all at sea in this series. When four of the top six are struggling, then you’re going to find it difficult to win Test matches. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of experience in the locker for the tourists. Ravi Bopara must surely be given a go in the next match, presumably at the expense of Eoin Morgan, but the Irishman could regard himself as a little unlucky, as it could be Pietersen or Bell who makes way, but as the more established two, England’s numbers four and five will probably survive the cut.

England need to plan ahead as far as their batting goes. The line-up is relatively old now, with Strauss, Trott and Pietersen well into their 30s and few younger batsmen being given a chance at the top level what with the top six, very successful in the last few years, being something of a closed shop.

England have plenty of bowlers with experience who are good enough in international cricket, mainly because bowlers get injured and pitches differ. Batsmen have a spot and it’s theirs to lose. There is talent out there, many of whom are on the Lions tour of Sri Lanka and performing well.

All the lessons “learned” from the first Test were ignored. The DRS has made batting against spin a more difficult prospect, but the England players played back to a spinning ball when every pundit on the planet has suggested that getting a good stride in is the way forward – pun kind of intended.

Having said all this, we shouldn’t lose sight of Pakistan’s performance, which was extremely spirited considering that they appeared to be staring defeat in the face.

Misbah, their skipper, has managed to gel a historically fractious team and got them all performing for each other, rather than as 11 individuals. Rehman bowled beautifully and England certainly can’t moan about his action, but the Pakistan bowling attack, Junaid Khan excluded, are a powerful unit.

Junaid is a talented young seamer, cut from similar cloth to Pakistan legend Wasim Akram in performance, which is very encouraging for the future of Pakistan cricket. He was superb for Lancashire last summer and will come good, but he is currently struggling and the weak link.

It will be interesting to see how Flower plays the final Test, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pakistan complete the whitewash in Dubai, and deservedly so. England may be handing that ICC trophy for being the number one Test side in the world over earlier than they thought.