Tag Archives: calmness

Luke Shaw tipped for the top like Gareth Bale

Shaw tipped to follow in Bale's footsteps as next Southampton wonderkid

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UPDATED:

23:31 GMT, 26 November 2012

Southampton youngster Luke Shaw is drawing comparisons to former Saints teenage prodigy Gareth Bale.

The 17-year-old left-back has just started three Premier League games in a row for Saints which has coincided with a three-game unbeaten run. Two wins and a draw has won them seven points that have pulled them out of the relegation zone from second-bottom.

Bale won Football League Young Player of the Year in 2007 following a season as left-back and he scored five goals in 45 appearances in total for the club.

One to watch: Southampton's Luke Shaw has been tipped for the top

One to watch: Southampton's Luke Shaw has been tipped for the top

The Welshman moved to Tottenham for 5million and has since become one of the best attacking midfield players in the world.

And the similarities between Shaw and Bale have got people saying that he could follow in his footsteps.

Team-mate Adam Lallana said: 'The calmness he possesses for a 17-year-old is astonishing. He has got a great left foot on him and he has bedded in really well. He has got to keep up his fitness and he is going to go far in the game.

'There a big similarities between him and Bale. That is what people have been saying but he knows he has got to keep his feet on the ground and has a lot to learn but he is going to improve a lot with us, I can tell.'

Shaw, who came through Southampton's academy that has produced the likes of Bale, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and made his debut for Saints last season in an FA Cup match against Millwall, was subject to a 4m bid by Chelsea during the summer. But Southampton have always maintained he is a big part of their future.

One to watch: Southampton's Luke Shaw has been tipped for the top

International star: Adam Lallana hopes to remain in Roy Hodgson's plans

Lallana, 24, got his first England call-up in September and he hopes Roy Hodgson's interest in bringing youth into the national side means he and more of the younger players at Southampton get their chance in the future. Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne, 21, plays for England Under 21s and Shaw is in the Under 17 side.

Lallana added: 'I would love to get back in the England squad as any other young England player in the Premier League would. It is early stages for [Clyne and Shaw].

'Hodgson has shown he wants to bring youth in but I know they are not going to get too far ahead of themselves. If in time us improving gets some of the younger lads call-ups then that is brilliant. Clyne and Shaw have been excellent.'

Roberto Di Matteo fighting for Chelsea job after Petr Cech involved in dressing room bust-up

EXCLUSIVE: Six months after winning Champions League, Chelsea boss Di Matteo is left fighting for job (as Cech is involved in dressing room row…)

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UPDATED:

09:56 GMT, 19 November 2012

Roberto Di Matteo is fighting to save his job only six months after lifting the European Cup.

His Chelsea team have won just three of their last seven games, and defeat against Juventus in Turin on Tuesday would put their Champions League campaign in serious jeopardy.

After starting the season so well, Chelsea's campaign is in danger of falling apart, causing owner Roman Abramovich to lose his patience.

At risk: Roberto Di Matteo is fighting for his job

At risk: Roberto Di Matteo is fighting for his job

He is not alone. Goalkeeper Petr Cech
was at the centre of a heated dressing-room row following Saturday's
2-1 defeat at West Bromwich.

After their game with Juve, Di Matteo's side face Barclays Premier League leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

These are vital matches for Di
Matteo, with Abramovich aware that former Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola
wants to work at Chelsea when he returns to management next summer.

Cech was furious after Chelsea's poor defensive display left them four points behind Manchester City.

Amid a flurry of expletives, another voice screamed that the display was 'rubbish – and you all know it'.

Other comments that were overheard included the barb: 'Call yourself Champions League winners' as passions spilled over.

Di Matteo was calmness personified in front of the media a few moments later but back in the dressing room, he too had stomped around in a fashion that was seldom witnessed when he was in charge of West Bromwich.

Chelsea defender David Luiz was surely among those chastised by his colleagues, particularly over the embarrassing lack of discipline in his game.

However, he at least had the good grace to admit what went on, saying: 'We were upset, it is normal. We are disappointed as we should have won this game.'

Bust up: Petr Cech was at the centre of a dressing room row during Saturday's defeat against West Brom

Bust up: Petr Cech was at the centre of a dressing room row during Saturday's defeat against West Brom

Blip: Chelsea have won only three of their previous seven games

Blip: Chelsea have won only three of their previous seven games

Asked whether the cacophony of raised voices was the standard reaction, he added: 'Of course it's normal. This is a big club and you cannot lose games.'

The failings in Chelsea's defence are now painfully apparent every time captain John Terry is absent.

They miss not just his quality but
his organisational ability, and have conceded an average of two goals in
every game without him this season.

'Of course we miss him,' said Di
Matteo. 'He's an important player. He gives us confidence at the back –
and to the team in general.'

Di Matteo has promised to wield the
axe for the Juventus game. Judged on their performances on Saturday
alone, defender Luiz and misfiring striker Fernando Torres must be in
line for a very public chop. 'It's not just an individual issue,' said
the manager.

'As a team we have to defend better. You don't defend with one, you defend with the whole team.'

Tough luck: Di Matteo's former side West Brom survived a late barrage to claim all three points

Tough luck: Di Matteo's former side West Brom survived a late barrage to claim all three points

Andre Villas-Boas hopes Mousa Dembele will return soon

Villas-Boas hopes Dembele will make speedy return to Tottenham squad

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UPDATED:

23:00 GMT, 21 October 2012

Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas hopes he will not be without Mousa Dembele for too long after revealing the midfielder has suffered a recurrence of the niggling hip injury which sidelined him for Fulham last season.

Spurs greatly missed Dembele's calmness and distribution on Saturday as their four-match winning streak came to an end at the hands of Chelsea, who ran out 4-2 winners at White Hart Lane.

Dembele, who has been a big hit since arriving for 15million on deadline day, had to come off at half-time during Belgium's win over Scotland on Tuesday after the 25-year-old fell and triggered an old hip injury he suffered at Fulham last season.

Hope: Mousa Dembele (right) was ruled out after a recurrence of a hip injury

Hope: Mousa Dembele (right) was ruled out after a recurrence of a hip injury

The versatile midfielder missed three games towards the end of January with the same problem and Villas-Boas admits losing Dembele for a similar length of time would be a big blow for the Londoners.

'Top players are missed,' the Spurs boss said.

'He had a scan, but we haven't seen the results yet. He suffers discomfort and pain on his hip which is not something that shows on the scan so it's difficult to assess.

'Fulham took him off for a period of two weeks. He had a chance to play (on Saturday) and had a late fitness test but the pain didn't go away.

'It's something that comes back to him. He fell awkwardly in the Scotland game against Belgium and felt the pain.'

Without Dembele, and Gareth Bale, who missed the game because his partner went into labour, Spurs looked weak in midfield, with Tom Huddlestone still lacking match sharpness after recovering from a long-term ankle injury this summer.

Much had been made of Villas-Boas' hidden determination to get one over on his old employers and defender Jan Vertonghen admits the manner of Saturday's London derby defeat was frustrating.

No revenge: Andre Villas-Boas (right) was unable to get a win against his former employers

No revenge: Andre Villas-Boas (right) was unable to get a win against his former employers

Since Villas-Boas arrived at Spurs this summer, the Portuguese has failed to instil a sense of consistency in his team's home performances, although his predecessor Harry Redknapp also struggled to achieve as much last season, particularly towards the end of the campaign.

The victory over Aston Villa aside, Spurs have failed to produce a solid 90-minute display at White Hart Lane this season.

Only a much-improved second-half display allowed Spurs to beat QPR and the team were patchy at best against West Brom and Norwich.

And on Saturday they were terrible in the first half, allowing Gary Cahill to open the scoring during a period in which Chelsea should have sealed the match.

'At home we seem to play better in the second half than the first,” said Vertonghen, who signed from Ajax this summer.

'We need to think about how to put two strong halves together.

'We need to work out how to put a bit more pressure on teams from the start.

Missed: Dembele's absebce was noticed as Juan Mata and Co dismantled Tottenham at White Hart Lane

Missed: Dembele's absebce was noticed as Juan Mata and Co dismantled Tottenham at White Hart Lane

'They were the best team I faced this year, but I knew they would be.

'I knew their players before I came here and what they are capable of.

'Chelsea are a good team but I feel we should have done better.'

Gallas drew Spurs level with his first for the club just after the break and Jermain Defoe netted his 200th career goal moments later, but things started to unravel for the hosts halfway through the second period.

Gallas, whose poor clearance allowed Cahill to score, again failed to clear his lines properly, allowing Juan Mata to score.

The Frenchman then let the Spaniard slip past him so he could convert an Eden Hazard pass to put Chelsea back in front soon after.

Many were surprised that Villas-Boas has started Gallas in every game this year given that he is 35, but Vertonghen insists the Spurs skipper is not past it.

In action: Dembele (right) played for Belgium as they beat Scotland 2-0 in their World Cup qualifier

In action: Dembele (right) played for Belgium as they beat Scotland 2-0 in their World Cup qualifier

'William is very experienced and with his experience he can be a very good player for us,' Vertonghen said.

'He is our captain and an important player.

'He treats me like I am his little brother so that's why he is a very good captain.

'He always wants the best for me, even though we are both centre-backs. I really appreciate him.'

Why I had to go: Captain classy Strauss bows out, saying he wasn"t up to it any more

Why I had to go: Captain classy Strauss bows out, saying he wasn't up to it any more

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UPDATED:

23:03 GMT, 29 August 2012

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It was apt in this Olympic year that Andrew Strauss should say he had ‘run his race’ when he took his leave from cricket.

There was to be no gold medal at the end of his very own marathon but nobody within the England cricket team has better embodied the Games ideal than their selfless, statesmanlike leader.

Strauss insisted it was his lack of runs, rather than the Kevin Pietersen text fiasco, that made him decide to go.

‘The driver of it all was my form with the bat,’ he said. ‘I haven’t played well enough for a long time now. For a captain to perform his role properly it’s important that he’s not a passenger and also that people are not speculating as to whether he should be in the side. I knew I wasn’t going to improve. I’ve run my race.’

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Time to declare: Andrew Strauss announced his retirement from all forms of the game at Lord's

Time to declare: Andrew Strauss announced his retirement from all forms of the game at Lord's

Relaxed mood: Strauss spoke with his usual calmness and assurance

Relaxed mood: Strauss spoke with his usual calmness and assurance

Strauss inherited the England captaincy in the midst of a crisis involving Pietersen and he leaves it three-and-a-half years later amid more KP-induced turmoil but this retirement from all cricket has little to do with the debilitating effects of that particular wheel turning full circle.

Sandwiched between the two Pietersen affairs has come a truly golden period in which Strauss became one of England’s most successful captains.

There have been home and away Ashes successes and the high of thrashing India to go top of the world last year, but Strauss’s powers have been on the wane since then and he has acted now to try to make sure his side’s concurrent slide can be arrested. As ever, he put the interests of Team England first.

‘It hasn’t occurred overnight,’ said Strauss as he sat between his boss Hugh Morris and his successor Alastair Cook at Lord’s.

A class act: Strauss takes the plaudits after retaining the Ashes in Melbourne

A class act: Strauss takes the plaudits after retaining the Ashes in
Melbourne and took England to No 1 in the Test rankings (below) after a 4-0 whitewash of India

A summer of strain on and off the field has contributed to Strauss's decision

A summer of strain on and off the field has contributed to Strauss's decision

‘It’s been a feeling that has grown in
the last six to 12 months and in the last few weeks it has become
apparent that this is the right time. I wanted to go on my own terms
with my head held high. This is the best time to do that. You just feel
it in your heart.’

Perhaps we should have seen this coming. Perhaps we should have realised a 2-0 defeat by South Africa coupled with a batting average of 17 from three Tests for the 35-year-old added up to the end. After all, that captain slayer Graeme Smith was in charge of the opposition and both Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan will tell you what happens when he is in town.

It was just that with Pietersen left out for disciplinary reasons and England wobbling all year, Strauss’s calm hand on the tiller seemed to be needed more than ever in India this winter. That this news came as a shock said everything about how, as Cook said, you can take some people for granted.

‘I go out with absolutely no regrets,’ insisted Strauss. ‘I’ve achieved a lot more than I thought I would. That makes me feel very proud and honoured. I like to feel I played the game in the right way and adhered to my principles. If people remember me for that I’ll be very happy.

Loss of form: Strauss has struggled with the bat in recent years

Loss of form: Strauss has struggled with the bat in recent years, averaging 17.83 against South Africa

Out of form: Strauss averaged 17.83 with the bat against South Africa
Strauss stat zone

24: Tests won as captain by Strauss out of 50. Only Michael Vaughan, with 26 victories in 51 Tests, has won more games as captain of England.

169: His top score in 85 innings as captain, against West Indies at St John’s, Antigua, in February 2009.

1,421: Test runs against Australia, more than he made against any other team (next best 1,408 against West Indies).

40.76: Strauss’s batting average as captain, almost identical to his overall Test average of 40.91.

100: Test caps won by Strauss, placing him joint-eighth on England’s all-time list with Graham Thorpe. Alec Stewart tops the list on 133.

6: Of his 21 Test hundreds were scored against West Indies, his favourite opponents. He didn’t manage a ton against Bangladesh or Sri Lanka.

11: Tests lost as captain, six of them in 2012 alone.

‘The last week or two haven’t been ideal but I like to think I’ve gone out at a good time. We may have lost that final Test but I’ve never been prouder of an England team. The way they played at Lord’s after all the distractions, the way they stuck together and the resolve and fight everyone showed was a fantastic way for me to go out. The players kindly got me a hundred bottles of wine for my 100th Test and I think they will furnish me very well in my retirement.’

There was a smile from Strauss but enormous sadness among all present. It did not quite end literally in tears, as it did for Hussain at Edgbaston and Vaughan at Loughborough, but there were plenty of metaphorical ones and a large elephant in the ECB rooms in the form of Pietersen. Has he ultimately driven his captain out of office with his ‘provocative’ texts about Strauss to South African players and his disloyal behaviour at Headingley

‘No, not in any way,’ insisted
Strauss. ‘I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I first spoke to
(coach) Andy Flower about it before the whole business reared its head.
It hasn’t been a consideration. What happened hasn’t undermined me in
the eyes of the team. It has been a difficult thing to deal with but
nothing that has made me more or less inclined to lead the side forward.
I knew my time was up probably before the South African series and
certainly by the end of it I knew it was time to go.’

Strauss
eventually made up his mind while on holiday with his family in the
aftermath of the Lord’s Test. He pulled out of Middlesex’s match at
Worcester on Monday night and then informed all at the ECB on Tuesday.
Significantly, there were no attempts by Flower nor anyone else to
change his mind.

Winning team: Strauss with England team director Andy Flower

Winning team: Strauss with England team director Andy Flower

There seems to be a four-year cycle for England captains, apart from Pietersen, and Strauss has pretty much reached the end of his.

The players were all informed, rather quaintly, in the form of letters hand-written by Strauss and given to them after they had lost to South Africa at the Ageas Bowl. He is yet to speak to them all personally about his decision but he will do. No texts, provocative or otherwise, nor emails for the England captain. He is not that sort of bloke.

‘It’s a hugely sad moment, saying
goodbye to team-mates and, in particular, Andy Flower, who has been a
great support for me and has taken the side forward in so many ways,’
said Strauss. ‘But it’s time for the team to refresh and think about how
best to regain that No 1 ranking. This is a great way for us to be able
to do that. If people still think I should be part of the side then
that validates my decision. I would have hated to have outstayed my
welcome.’

He was never
likely to do that. While Strauss goes off to spend time with his young
family, gets his golf handicap down and decides what to do next — the
smart money is on cricket administration but not commentary — England
must get ready for India and solve the Pietersen dilemma without the man
unwittingly at the centre of the row.

Doubling up: Strauss made a century in each innings in Chennai in 2008

Doubling up: Strauss made a century
in each innings in Chennai in 2008

‘Nothing has changed with Kevin,’ said Strauss. ‘There is a process to go through and it’s not going to happen overnight.’

So how would he advise Cook to deal with, shall we say, difficult individuals

‘I’m not going to answer that one directly in case it’s interpreted as being about a certain individual,’ said Strauss with a smile.

‘My advice to Alastair is to savour and enjoy the challenge of captaining your country. Throw yourself into it with everything you’ve got and have no regrets. I’ve got every confidence that’s what Alastair will do.’

New era: Strauss passes on the baton to Cook for the visit to India

New era: Strauss passes on the baton to Alastair Cook for the visit to India

Captain Cook: England's new Test captain was unveiled on Wednesday
Short and tweet

Michael Vaughan @VaughanCricket

Can’t believe Straussy didn’t Cry….. Lol

Phil Neville @fizzer18

Sad to c Strauss retire-didn’t c that coming at all been a great captain that’s for sure handled himself with class!!

Jonathan Agnew @Aggerscricket

Always feel sorry for the successor on days like this. Touch of ‘the King is dead, long live the King.’ And Cook faces a huge challenge now

Stuart Broad @StuartBroad8
Awesome guy, great leader, dependable batsman and a solid 1 slip catcher. Cheers Straussy you’ll be playing scratch golf within a year…
…Best Straussy knock for me was his 100 on the 1st day of the Ashes Test at Lords, allowed us bowlers to have a massive lunch!

Matthew Hoggard @Hoggy602

Andrew Strauss has been a fantastic servant to the game of cricket I am lucky to have played with him and one game with him as captain

Both Morris and Cook talked about dealing with the Pietersen issue ‘behind closed doors’, with the next step being talks between the batsman, Morris and Flower and it is clear that there is no softening of England’s hardline stance. If anything attitudes may have hardened, particularly among the players who will undoubtedly believe Pietersen may have played a part in the departure of the captain they held in such high regard.

Only pragmatism might save the errant star because without both him and Strauss, England’s top order is going to look mightily inexperienced when faced with the enormous challenge of taking on India in their own conditions.

It could easily be argued that England’s hopes of winning on the sub-continent may depend on somehow re-integrating Pietersen into a dressing room that remains openly hostile towards him.
Jonathan Trott may be promoted to open the batting alongside Cook but that would leave another gap in a middle order that already contains young players in Jonny Bairstow and James Taylor.

Yorkshire’s highly promising Joe Root has long been considered Strauss’s eventual successor but will England throw him into the deep end that India represents

Saga: Strauss and Kevin Pietersen (above left) have dominated the headlines of late

Saga: Strauss and Kevin Pietersen (above left) have dominated the headlines of late

Then there are the question marks over the fitness of Graeme Swann, who was left out of the remaining three one-day internationals against South Africa to rest his chronic elbow problem ahead of the World Twenty20. He will be replaced for now by James Tredwell but Swann, who will surely need another operation on that right elbow soon, is integral to England’s chances of thriving in India and beyond with a four-man attack. Over to you, captain Cook.

At least the new Test leader will have the enormous presence of Flower alongside him to drive the rebuilding process because Morris moved quickly to reassure everyone that the team director is in no hurry to follow Strauss out of the exit door.

‘Andy Flower still has enormous energy and enthusiasm for the job,’ said Morris, managing director of Team England. ‘He’s very excited about the challenges ahead over the next two or three years. Andy is fully committed to that. He’s really looking forward to working with Alastair with the Test team.’

Flower will have to do that, though, without the man who he has worked so well and so productively with since the beginning of 2009. The Flower-Strauss combo proved to be a cricketing marriage made in heaven and only time will tell whether he can truly have the same chemistry with Cook.

Debut ton: Strauss celebrates his century at Lord's in 2004

Debut ton: Strauss celebrates his century against New Zealand at Lord's in 2004

Iconic moment: Andrew Strauss catches Adam Gilchrist off Andrew Flintoff at Trent Bridge in 2005, in what became one of the defining moments of an epic series

Iconic moment: Strauss catches Adam Gilchrist off Andrew Flintoff at Trent Bridge in 2005, in what became one of the defining moments of an epic series

There was a round of applause from the media when Strauss left his final press conference — we hacks are usually too cynical for that sort of thing — and he was heard to say ‘well done mate’ to Cook as the pair disappeared from view.

The new captain is not as comfortable in the public eye as the outgoing leader and Strauss, a team man to the last, recognised that in giving him a pat on the back for his debut performance.

A cricketing statesman and a batsman good enough to score more than 7,000 runs and 21 Test centuries over 100 appearances, 50 of them as captain. Yes, Andrew Strauss will be missed, but the timing of his departure is perfect.

VIDEO: Andrew Strauss announces his retirement…

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Euro 2012: Robbie Keane content for Ireland to be underdogs

Keane content for Ireland to be outsiders ahead of Croatia opener

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UPDATED:

21:58 GMT, 3 June 2012

Robbie Keane is happy for the Republic of Ireland to be cast in the role of underdogs at Euro 2012.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men will begin their campaign against Croatia in Poznan next Sunday evening, knowing reigning champions Spain and fellow powerhouse Italy are waiting in the wings in the battle for qualification from Group C.

No great expectations: Robbie Keane (right) happy to play underdog's role

No great expectations: Robbie Keane (right) happy to play underdog's role

Few outside Ireland are giving them any great chance of forcing their way out of the group, but within the camp, the belief is that they are far from outsiders.

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Captain Keane said: 'It's good for us that people think that because we know as a group of players, the confidence we have at this moment in time, from what I can see, is part of the team.

'I mentioned before about the Estonia game [in the play-offs] and the relaxed feeling we had before that game, it's very, very similar to now, to be honest with you.

'The intensity in training has been great, but around the place, people don't seem to be uptight or worried too much about next week, and it's always important as a player to have a calmness about you.'

Part of that relaxed air is down to the continuity Trapattoni has brought to his squad with the bulk of the 23-man party having done duty for their country for some considerable time now.

Continuity: Giovanni Trapattoni has a settled squad

Continuity: Giovanni Trapattoni has a settled squad

There is the odd exception – Sunderland winger James McClean could prove a handy wild card in Poland and Ukraine – but Keane knows how studiously he and his team-mates have been drilled by the 73-year-old Italian manager during his four years in charge and the benefits that has brought.

Keane said: 'That's been the case for the last few years, we have had really the same squad for the last few years now.

'In the last campaign, it was a very, very similar squad and the players with every game get better and better and they get more comfortable playing international football.

'The starting XI has been kind of the same for a long time now, so the players are very, very comfortable with each other, and the players who are on the bench or who come on know exactly what role they have to play when they come on to the pitch.

We know what's required: Captain Keane says the squad is comfortable

We know what's required: Captain Keane says the squad is comfortable

'For a player, it's very, very important to know that.'

Keane, sitting beside his manager at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest this evening, was asked to assess what Trapattoni had brought to Ireland, only to be prompted by the man himself.

The Los Angeles Galaxy striker responded with a smile: 'It's the balance he has brought to the team.

'He says it himself. How can I argue with that I want to play next Sunday.

'The experience he has and the way he goes about things – you can see the difference in the way we have played since he has come in and taken over as manager.

'The change has been incredible.'

James Anderson strikes late as England fight back in First test

Jimmy swings it back as last-ball Anderson strike caps superb England fightback

The look of complete joy on his face
as he was mobbed by his team-mates said everything about the potential
significance of the moment.

Jimmy Anderson had struck with the last ball of the day and England were back in the first Test.

They still face an uphill battle, of
course, after suicidal shot selection had left them at least 200 below
par in their first innings, but England's fightback on Wednedsay
epitomised their unity and the character within the team.

Big finish: James Anderson (right) runs off to celebrate getting rid of Abdur Rehman with the final ball of the day

Big finish: James Anderson (right) runs off to celebrate getting rid of Abdur Rehman with the final ball of the day

Pakistan v England

Click here for the full scorecard

This second day was everything we
expected from this series: old-fashioned, attritional Test cricket with
disciplined bowling from England on a flat sub-continental-type pitch
being met with careful Pakistan defiance.

On any other day Andrew Strauss would
have been delighted to take seven wickets and restrict Pakistan to
fewer than three an over but such was England's capitulation at the
hands of Saeed Ajmal that Misbah-ul-Haq will still expect his team to go
on to victory from here.

That Misbah would have slept just
that little less soundly last night was entirely down to England's late
double strike which made Pakistan's scoring rate seem just that little
bit too slovenly.

At the close they led by 96 runs, but with only three wickets left.

.
Big breakthrough: Graeme Swann successfully appeals for the wicket of Hafeez

Big breakthrough: Graeme Swann successfully appeals for the wicket of Hafeez

Misbah himself, whose calmness at the
crease epitomises the pragmatism he has brought to his new-look side,
had been blocking his way toward the close for more than three hours
when Graeme Swann suddenly struck him a blow on the front pad that he
thrusts seemingly permanently forward.

It looked a marginal call and umpire
Billy Bowden seemed entitled to turn down Swann's appeal. Strauss
agonised over whether to review the decision but was del ighted he did
when technology suggested the ball was just hitting leg stump.

Bowden seemed aghast that his decision had been overturned and I really could not blame him.

Whatever the scientists and decision
review system apologists say, there looked an element of doubt there and
Misbah might have been unlucky. No matter.

When Anderson followed it up in the
next and final over of the day by swinging a ball past the defences of
Abdur Rehman, England were able to leave the field with a spring in
their step and a chance to dream that they may yet get out of jail. It
was not the perfect day for them.

Mobbed: Stuart Broad is congratulated by his team-mates after dismissing Pakistan's Azhar Ali

Mobbed: Stuart Broad is congratulated by his team-mates after dismissing Pakistan's Azhar Ali

They really needed to take every
half-chance to limit the damage inflicted on them by Ajmal, and fielding
coach Richard Halsall will have been disappointed to see Ian Bell miss a
run-out by a whisker and both Chris Tremlett and Kevin Pietersen spill
difficult catches.

Mohammad Hafeez was the beneficiary
of England's largess on two of those occasions and took advantage to
show why he has become one of the most effective all-round cricketers in
the world.

It was Hafeez who began England's
demise on Tuesday when he dismissed Alastair Cook with his orthodox
off-spin and now he played the best innings of the day, surviving that
run-out chance on 44 and Tremlett's miss on 52 to go on to a
well-organised 88.

Stuart Broad was the pick of the
tourists' attack, again bowling with the intelligence that he showed
against India last summer to take two wickets in quick succession after
the disappointment of missing out on Hafeez, dismissing Taufeeq Umar in
particular with an absolute beauty.

But perhaps the most pleasing bowling
of the day came from Jonathan Trott, who showed that he could yet step
into Paul Collingwood's shoes as fifth bowler by dismissing the key
figure of Younis Khan and generally provide a threat by getting seam
movement with his medium pace.

England's batsmen are the most
reluctant of bowlers and it would make such a difference if Trott could
perform this role more often.

Key contribution: Mohammad Hafeez weighed in with 88 before he was trapped lbw by Graeme Swann

Key contribution: Mohammad Hafeez weighed in with 88 before he was trapped lbw by Graeme Swann

There is a strong case to say that
Trott's contribution would not have been necessary had England played
Monty Panesar in a balanced attack of five bowlers and dropped a
batsman.

As an advocate of such a policy, at
least in subcontinental conditions, I can only concur that it would have
been lovely to see Panesar out there supporting Swann, especially as
there was barely a hint of the reverse swing that England's seamers were banking on here.

But the absence of Tim Bresnan does
make such a move risky in the extreme, especially as much of England's
success has been built around piling runs on the board with the longest
batting line-up in Test cricket.

Leading by example: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq managed a half century

Leading by example: Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq managed a half century

I am not sure England could have
done much better yesterday even if Panesar had been supporting Swann,
who bowled well in taking two wickets and could never have been expected
to repeat Ajmal's first-day heroics on such a bland surface.

Yet it is fair to say that Tremlett,
who has played in just last week's warm-up match since badly injuring
his back last summer, was not at his best and Anderson was reasonably
innocuous until he struck with the second new ball and then made his
late heartening strike.

Welcome Matt: Prior (left) celebrates with Swann after catching Shafiq off Anderson

Welcome Matt: Prior (left) celebrates with Swann after catching Shafiq off Anderson

The key to this match and the rest of the three-Test series is undoubtedly England's ability to counter the threat of Ajmal. But they need only look back to the first Test of the Ashes last winter at Brisbane to know that they can concede a big first-innings deficit and still hit back in style.

The challenge now is whether they can do it in alien conditions against the mystery spin of Ajmal.

Secret weapon: Trott