No1 status looks flaky as England left all in a spin by Pakistan
England's under-performing cricketers are in danger of blowing the No1 ranking they acquired only last summer – along with a bumper 110,000 cash windfall – as a result of their back-to-back Test defeats by Pakistan.
Less than five months after being crowned the International Cricket Council’s No1-ranked Test team in the world following their 4-0 thrashing of India last summer, Andrew Strauss’ men face the threat of dropping behind second-placed South Africa.
The ICC provides an annual cash prize to the team sitting on top of the world rankings on April 1.
Humbled: England were overrun by a brilliant Pakistan display
Saturday's shocking second-innings collapse to 72 all out in just 36.2 overs saw England slip to their second defeat in two Tests to Pakistan — and the humiliating 72-run loss will see them lose ground in the overall table.
If England, currently No1 in the world on 125 points, lose to Pakistan in the third and final Test in Dubai, starting next Friday, they would slip back to 118 Test ranking points, while a drawn Test would see them reduced to 119 points.
That would leave the door ajar for second- placed South Africa to overtake them, if they whitewash New Zealand in their three Test series starting on March 7.
Marching orders: Andrew Strauss hung around for some time before being got out
South Africa can reach 119 points if they do just that in their series but, if England do draw, the Proteas would have one tenth of a decimal more, meaning they would claim the cash prize.
Strauss’ team have failed to build on their recent success, as traditional short-comings against spin bowling on the subcontinent have re-surfaced in their series against Pakistan.
Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman were again their tormenters-in-chief at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, bowling Pakistan to a stunning victory and finishing with 15 wickets between them in the match.
England’s middle order of Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan were again blown away with ridiculous ease as Pakistan secured a cherished series triumph. Between them, the three players have scored just 84 runs in the series.
Former captain Michael Vaughan was scathing of the team’s performance.
‘I can’t believe what I have seen,’ he said, after watching England collapse in less than two-and-a-quarter hours. There is nothing wrong with this pitch. England have been mentally shot. They have been so negative.
No fun if you're not No 1
If England, currently No1 in the world on 125 points, lose to Pakistan in the third and final Test starting on Friday, they will slip back to 118 points.
South Africa can reach 119 if they whitewash New Zealand 3-0 in the series that starts on March 7. Even if England draw next week, South Africa would still be above them, by one tenth of a decimal point.
‘A few of them are completely out of form. The bowling has been good but the batting has been woeful. Bell, Pietersen and Morgan are all at sea.
‘This England team has a problem against spin. They lost to Ireland and Bangladesh in the World Cup — and Bell, Pietersen and Andrew Strauss clearly have problems batting against spinners.
‘Rehman bowled lovely, but there were no balls spitting. Murali had Ian Bell on toast. Shane Warne had him on toast. And now Ajmal has him on toast. Orthodox
spin bowlers he plays well — but against top-class spinners he’s struggling.’
England collapsed in shocking fashion as Pakistan secured victory that had seemed beyond them when Monty Panesar’s superb six-wicket haul, on his return to the side, ensured his team only needed to chase 145 to level the series. But they never looked like getting close as Rehman and Ajmal wrought havoc.
Former England opener Geoffrey Boycott, who had earlier claimed he would give up his three houses if Pakistan won, added: ‘England didn’t seem to have a clue where they were going to get a run.
Hazy memory: England's No 1 status is now under threat
'There was more chance of them getting
an edge, or getting byes or leg byes. They may be the No1 side in the
world, but they haven’t won on the subcontinent
and, on this evidence, they’re not going to.’
A shell-shocked Strauss admitted he could not remember a more painful defeat in an England shirt following Sunday's late capitulation.
‘We’ve got to find ways of fighting back and making sure we can reconnect with all the good things we’ve done over the last couple of years,’ he said.
‘The batsmen need — and want — to show that we’re a better team than what we’ve shown so far on this tour. That’s a pretty good motivation.
‘As a side collectively, we want to demonstrate that we can play in these conditions — which I’m absolutely certain we can, because we’ve played a lot of good cricket in this game.
‘We need to make sure we bounce back and, I hope, complete a victory in Dubai.’