Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Preview, 2nd Test,Pakistan versus England, Abu Dhabi

A comprehensive 10 wicket win by Pakistan in the 1st Test proved to everyone about their burgeoning reputation in the game as well as giving credence to an English Team lacking credibility away from the comforts of home. Setting up a classic tug of war in the 2nd Test with Pakistan trying to retain control in the series and England fighting tooth and nail to get back into it.

Meaning a tantalising Test Match is on the cards!


Likely Team

It seems that Pakistan is adhering to an 'if it is not broken, then do not try to fix it'  mentality for this match with the retention of the same 11 from the 1st Test. Leaving the side as follows:

Hafees, Taufeeq, Azhar, Younis, Misbah, Asad, Adnan, Gul, Rehman, Ajmal, Cheema

The Keys For Pakistan to Win

The reality of the 1st Test was that Pakistan won quite literally with a leg in the air. Which deserved the heartiest of congratulations and sincerest praise for their very noteworthy and accomplished performance.

Though as we sit at the dawn of this match that result needs to be savoured, but put into context in regards to the Team having to put in an even better performance in this game to counter an expected English fight back. The fact of the matter is that England are number one for a reason, and as such their performance in the first Test should be treated as an aberration rather than a reality.

In truth you cannot see there being a lapse in the excellence that Pakistan showed in the first game. For they seem to be a group of men so closely knit as a Team with a real intent on tasting some glory being lead by an exceptional Captain and man motivator in Misbah ul Haq. Then in the background the influence of Interim Coach Mohsin Khan cannot be understated.

The bowling was truly exceptional in all regards with its supreme diversity having all the English batsmen at sixers and sevens due to its sheer relentlessness. 

A pace unit lead by the vastly under rated Umar Gul, who again dazzled in the 2nd innings provided a perfect platform for the spinners to cut a swath through the English batting. In truth the bringing in of one of the accomplished left armers in Junaid Khan or Wahab Riaz in place of Aizaz Cheema would add to its threat. Though Cheema hardly deserves to be dropped, and Pakistan is unlikely to tinker with a winning combination.

What can we say about the trio of spinner outside of them being fantabulous and scrumdiddlyumptious to the palates of all Pakistan fans!

They have an unparalleled balance that has not been seen since either Iqbal Qasim and Abdul Qadir provided a real ice and fire challenge for batsmen with the astute defensive bowler and the devastating attacking force.

The current crop have two defensive masters in Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafees, and then arguably the most threatening bowler on Planet Earth in Saeed Ajmal. His powers of deception was truly top shelf with him making batsmen the quality of Ian Bell look very very average with his delightful 'Doosra'.
He looms large in this match too, and my word Heaven help England if he gets to bowl on a pitch that supports spin in this series!

A man that deserves a special mention in the homage being paid to the bowlers is the very refined wicket keeper Adnan Akmal, who looked to be a very talented gloveman and was a perfect compliment for the bowlers.

Away from the awesome bowling, the main concern for Pakistan is a batting unit that could be victimised by England's bowling. They showed adequate skill and resolve in the 1st Test, but in watching them they looked like an accident waiting to happen against quality bowling. 

If they can maintain the same batting performance from the 1st Test to support the bowling it would be hard to see the Team being beaten with the more likely result being a victory or a draw at worst.


Likely Team

The make up of the Team has been debated over a many ales in Pubs around the UK. It seems apparent that Chris Tremlett will be missing due to injury with this posing the question of who will replace him. All of Monty Panesar, Graeme Onions and Steve Finn's having their supporters with even the name of Ravi Bopara being mentioned in moments of drunkenness.

If it was my choice I would go for the precocious talents of the fast man Steve Finn in the hope of him rattling a few cages. Leaving the Team as follows: 

Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Broad, Swann, Anderson, Finn

The Keys For England to Win

This is a bit of a Captain Obvious, but they just have to perform at the level we know they can perform at. 

Especially their batting, which was complete rubbish in the 1st Test.

The major road block will be the raft of excellent Pakistani spinners, who had a real hold over the English prompting many to view England as having a real flaw against spin.

Which has merit on the evidence of the 1st Test, but having greater weight is the pedigree apparent in the English batting as seen throughout their careers in all conditions and against all types of bowling. Making you have faith in an English fight back.

In the times in the recent past where England has been under pressure the fight back has been lead by the top 3, and you can see that being the reality again in this match. It would not surprise to see one of Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss or Jonathan Trott strike a blow on the confidence of the Pakistanis with a real innings of substance as part of an English resurgence.

If the top 3 can exert that control it will pave the way for the middle order to return to its excellence of the last 12 months.

The key for making this a reality is as much in the mind with the batsmen needing to forego the strange negativity in their play from the 1st Test and return to their characteristic positive mindsets. Also with this playing with more surety and eliminating the raft of soft dismissals they gave in the first Test.

If they can return to the line up we identify with them, then they will be more than a match for the Pakistan bowling.

Ultimately this holds the key to the game. In the knowledge that if England's batting can perform at an adequate level it offers the opportunity to revert some pressure back onto a Pakistan batting line up that looks somewhat fragile.

They performed well in the 1st Test with Pakistan holding the ascendency throughout the match, but with the pressure being able to be applied through the opposition having runs on the board. It becomes a whole new ball game.

Allowing the very refined English bowling a chance to bowl with the game in its favour, and its best chances of a comeback victory.


The toss will be crucial for both Teams.

Especially England, who will be determined to re-exert itself after an insipid 1st Test display.

Then Pakistan wanting to bat first, score big to offer the best chances for their spinners to be a factor on the wearing pitch on day 4&5.

Sadly, I think the only victor from this match will be the anticipated 'road' pitch which will prevent any side from having a realistic chance of getting 20 wickets

Meaning a score draw

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