Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Can England Exorcise the Pakistani Spin Demons?

The Trio of Tormentors for the English Batsmen
The compelling image from the early parts of 2012  has been a batsman that reeked of real genius and dominance throughout 2011 with an average of 118.75 being made to look so inadequate against the spin of Saeed Ajmal and Co. 

Ian Bell was not alone with the majority of the English batting also being made to look silly, and it was in keeping with the theme of 'princes at home and paupers' away that has raged in Cricketing Press in the early parts of this year. As put up in light's in a billion souls bemoaning India being embarrassed over and over again in Australia as well as England's early struggles in this series. 

This issue was highlighted by the habitual stirrer in Javed Miandad adding his incendiary thoughts to England and their current plight

"England is mainly the top side without playing in Asia and you must give credit to Pakistan that they have been playing with no home advantage and still they are winning. England are now the No. 1 team because they had the home advantage and never lost in their backyard." 

It rankled all English fans mostly for it came from public enemy number 1 in Javed, who is still fervently hated by opposition fans near and far even 20 years after his retirement. Though when you clear away this vitriol as part of your reaction, a little truth could be found in it as well.

The key point of contention as we are on the dawn of the 2nd Test is how much of the batting from the 1st Test was reality?

Finding an answer to this will only be seen on the field, but some of it can be dissected from the evidence currently at hand. On watching the 1st Test struggles, it made you believe that it was driven by the minds of the English being sullied by the Pakistani 'spin doctors'. The hype about the bowlers in the lead up to the series were as decisive as the bowlers themselves-if not more so!

Just think about the scutterbug about the 'Doosra', 'Teesra', and every other supposed innovation coming out of Pakistan. The 'Doosra' just looked like a ball that has been bowled for a generation albeit excellently delivered in a cloak of deceit by Ajmal. As for the 'Teesra', it resembled an old fashioned 'arm ball', and certainly nothing out of the ordinary!

Throw into the bargain an inexplicable lack of preparation from the English brain trusts pre-tour for the demands of playing spin and it lead to wide spread strangulation. Batsmen buying into the 'bluff' and 'blunder' about what might be rather than what is in their minds made for a very refined bordering on accomplished spin department taking on ogre proportions in the English eyes.

Making for match figures of 185/15, that was more about what was perceived in minds, rather than what was reality on the field of play. In no way am I diminishing the Pakistan spin trio, who were consistently very good, and at times bordering on excellent, but those figures stand out arguably more for the failings in application of the English batsmen, rather than the might of the bowling.

Greater credence to this is gained when you watch the match over, and come to the realisation that the success was derived from lovely guile and deception through changes in pace and disguise of deliveries with little or no spin. Admittedly, the English batsmen at times struggled with the picking of the respective deliveries and the judging of the variations, but they were also so giving in their modes of dismissals.

Their choice to morph into a supremely negative mindset in their play when in the recent years of their ascent to the games summit they have been so lauded for their positive play was puzzling to be polite. As well as so playing into Pakistans blueprint for spin bowling success. Then worse, when they did decide to be more proactive they did it in a reckless manner that lead to a glut of untimely demises.

You know in the aftermath of this insipid display, a few home truths wrapped in a flurry of expletives for what was tantamount to a sincere bollocks of a batting display will dictate that the English become more free in their minds and with it more proactive in their play. 

In truth this is England's only choice to get back into the series, and you can see it being delivered in the marrying of stealth and calculated assault to break down the greatest strength of their opposition. As seen in not only the skill of the spinners, but the pressure they exert through their miserly mannerisms that strangle scoring rates and makes the pressure be acidic

A combination of dancing feet to meet the ball on the half volley with a tapped single here or a tapped single there will foster a renaissance of positivism to replace their stringent stay at home negativity from the first Test. Targeting will also be part of a way to rise with respect being shown to Saeed Ajmal's sincere threat, but his lesser allies in the fingers spinners of Rehman and Hafees met with more attacking mindsets.

To foster a divide and conquer mindset of offsetting the massive influence that this duos defensive mastery has over batsmen as a huge part in Ajmal's success. This will not only challenge the spinners, but also the fielding that was so Un-Pakistan like in the 1st Test in regards to having a real desperation and level of competence in support of the bowling. 

People reading all this might think I am spewing a load of tripe about the English batting with their clueless nature against the spin being their reality. It is somewhat simplistic to accept this on the basis of England's excellence in batting for a long period now in many varied condirions, and even their past performances in Asian conditions

Andrew Strauss: 8 Tests, 16 innings, average 37.20 ( career average 41.60), 3 centuries 

Alastair Cook: 10 Tests, 20 innings, average 51.77 ( career average 48.96), 4 centuries

Ian Bell: 14 Tests, 27 innings, average 40.76 ( career average 48.37), 2 centuries

Kevin Pietersen: 14 Tests, 27 innings, average 37.76 ( career average 49.71), 2 centuries

Matt Prior, 8 Tests, 13 innings, average 44.00 ( career average 45.22 ), 5 fifties

These figures shows the English batting have been lessened by approximately a minuscule 23 runs per innings in their previous adventures to the Sub Continent. Which does not take into account the bowlers they were facing in the likes of a few 'handy types' in Muttiah Muralidaran, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. As well as the marked improvements in the batting of the trio of Bell, Cook and Prior coupled with the non mention of Jonathan Trott from this list.

Pertinently one of the few English batsmen who showed a relative comfort against the spin assault with a promise of greater things to come.

Ultimately time will judge the relative fact or fiction of the result of the first Test.

Though with most agreeing to Pakistan being at their very top coupled with England being at their very depths in performance truth might be found somewhere in the middle.

Meaning the rise of the English batting to stand toe to toe with the Pakistan spin that will see the series at its conclusion be a described in one manner..........

A Classic

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