England’s chance to solidify their spot at the helm of the test rankings suffered a massive blow on day one of the first against Pakistan, as they succumbed to the spin of Saeed Ajmal.
The saying; you can’t win a test on the first day, but you can lose it, may well be true in this instance.
Bowled out for just 192 on what looked like a good deck when Matt Prior (70*) was playing the sort of innings we became accustomed to last year, England couldn’t make early inroads, as Pakistan ended just 150 behind the tourists on an eventful first day.
Ajmal was simply sensational. England probably didn’t help themselves on a pitch that wasn’t hardly as conducive to turn as first thought; but the off-break bowler used all of his skill to pick up career-best figures of seven for 75 as England toiled in the Dubai dessert.
Flight, change of pace and variations were all evident as Ajmal produced the kind of display that only goes to show that he is a master of his craft.
But England would’ve been ready for what Ajmal had to throw at them. He has been the talk of the warm-up games. How will England play on a turning pitch? – one of the questions that has been banded around a lot.
In Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower though, you have two people who wouldn’t have left any stone unturned. The players would’ve been more than ready for the test that was to come. But ultimately it just wasn’t their day.
Such was spin the key that it was introduced in just the sixth over of the day – something usually unheard of in test cricket. But boy did it work.
Mohammed Hafeez struck first, doing for Alistair Cook. The Essex man trying to cut hard towards backward point, but the pace beat him as he nicked behind for just three. So the rot began.
Jonathan Trott then went for 17; strangled down the leg-side off the bowling of seamer Aizaz Cheema with the score on 31.
Then came a flurry of wickets as Ajmal joined the party.
Strauss went trying to pull a ball that hurried him before Ian Bell departed the very next ball to a stunning ‘doosra’ from Ajmal that feathered the outside edge of his bat; keeper Adnan Akmal making no mistake behind the stumps.
Facing the hat-trick ball, Kevin Pietersen survived. He didn’t survive long though. In Ajmal’s next over, pushing well forward, the ball wrapped Pietersen’s pads, and following a review, the original decision of not out was turned on it’s head as KP too found himself walking back to the pavilion.
England found themselves five down for 53 at lunch.
Morgan was next to go. Slog-sweeping off Ajmal, Morgan played and missed, only to be given out leg-before. Broad then followed in similar fashion as England were staring down the barrel at 94 for seven.
For all England’s struggles, Matt Prior made batting look relatively easy. He worked hard early on, nurdling and nudging; something we have rarely seen from a player who likes to get on with it. He received good support from Graeme Swann who hit a much-needed 34 before he was brilliantly bowled by Abdur Rehman.
Chris Tremlett was then trapped LBW before James Anderson was the last man to go, leaving Prior unbeaten on 70.
Pakistan found the going much easier when they came out to bat, with openers Hafeez (22*) and Tafeeq Umar (18*) helping the score on to 42 without loss at the close of play.
England have much to do tomorrow to get themselves back in to this test. If we learned anything in 2011, this side won’t lie down. Expect a response tomorrow.