The best team in the world do not get bowled out for 72, mate. Ever!
Abdur Rehman placed the magic number at 150. His captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, made it even less: 130, he said, maybe even 120. So the question remains: if England are the best Test team in the world, how come Pakistan thought it would only take an indoor cricket total to beat them
Cricket is a game of numbers. Test victories are usually measured in scores of 500 or more; around 300 is considered reasonable for a one-day game, 200 should get you through in Twenty20, but 145 That would be the target for a decent indoor team. That is school gym cricket.
There are tens of thousands playing indoor cricket in England these days — hundreds of thousands in Australia where the game originated — and probably a fair few tragics and kids were in action on Saturday morning, while England sweated coldly in the desert sun.
Disappointment: England were terrible
Given the state of play, they would have rushed home expecting to see England level this Test series with Pakistan. The indoor game only lasts 12 overs each side so doesn’t take much more than 90 minutes. Sadly, Pakistan didn’t need much longer in Abu Dhabi, either. Commencing batting after lunch and completing their innings after tea, England were as good as dismissed in a single session.
Indoor cricket teams bat for 12 overs, so 120 is regarded as a fair score, but a good team looks for more. The game helps teach young batsmen to keep the scoreboard ticking along, which is pretty much all England had to do: 145 to get, best part of five sessions remaining, just keep it moving, don’t freeze, no risks, no rush.
There has only been one occasion since 1902 when England were set such a paltry total to win and failed.
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Yet from the start, Misbah and his players smelled trouble. They stared down the alleged best Test team in the world and detected uncertainty, even panic. They became convinced England would have a problem with just 145. And they were right.
Technically, England remain the best right now, but nobody is fooled. That particular title contains greater complexity than mere numerical process.
There is a purely mathematical claim to supremacy, as devised by earnest types with notebooks and computers at the ICC. England lead that table with 125 points, South Africa next on 117. Then there is justification as exists in the real world, when cricket lovers gather to discuss the finer points of the game.
It is in this unquantifiable arena that England’s status has taken a hit.
It will be a long time before England’s cricketers are taken seriously as world champions again; a long time before they shrug off the charge of false representation since being so devastatingly humiliated by a Pakistan team still in recovery from the spot-fixing scandal.
It was Australia captain Steve Waugh who dubbed Asia the final frontier.
For any side with pretensions towards global dominance it must be conquered. England’s cricketers may have a piece of paper with their name in capitals at the top but its boast now rings hollow. Andrew Strauss, England’s captain, supported Waugh’s view of Asia before this tour departed.
He regards Saturday’s capitulation — England’s poorest score against Pakistan, 72 — as the low point of his career.
A debacle in the desert, a disaster amid the dunes, has unfolded.
The Zayed Cricket Stadium wicket turned, but not with spectacular ferocity. The precedent for England is a collapse to 64 all out when needing 137 to win against New Zealand in Wellington in 1978. Yet this was worse.
Poor: Alastair Cook could not settle
Conqueror: Pakistan's Abdur Rehman helped put supposedly the world's best Test team out
This was The Best Team In The World falling in a dishevelled heap at the first hint of pressure; this was The Best Team In The World turning back the clock to the days when English cricket was synonymous with ineffectuality and crippling self-doubt; this was The Best Team In The World undoing years of improvement before increasingly disbelieving eyes.
There never was an open-top bus tour to celebrate English cricket’s ascent to the pinnacle of the sport, and it was probably just as well. Any England follower seeing a bus in Abu Dhabi would probably have wished to dive under it.
The Barmy Army are so called because there was a time when you had to be mad to stay devoted to England. Not recently.
As the footballers faltered and the rugby players went a-rollicking, English cricket reigned supreme, our shining, sublime star. Yet trooping away from this stadium oasis, a day earlier than anticipated, it must have felt as if the last three years, those Ashes wins home and away, the demolition of India last summer, were a mirage. English cricket had never left the wilderness, really. We were merely sand blind, half insane and hallucinating as we imagined our team at the apex of their sport.
It could not have been the same group that surrendered so meekly here. It could not.
The ICC introduced official Test rankings in June 2003 but, using the same method of calculation, Australia were the No 1 team in the world unofficially from September 2001, and held the title until July 2009.
It was in that period that Waugh cited Asia as the true measure of resilience and greatness, and between those dates Australia lost a single Test series on the sub-continent, in India in 2008.
They won three straight Tests in Sri Lanka, they won in Bangladesh, they won 2-1 in a four-Test series in India in 2004. Nobody questioned Australia.
Red hot: Saeed Ajmal is hard to handle
/01/29/article-0-117F6073000005DC-814_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Vulnerable: Kevin Pieterson is susceptible to left-arm spin ” class=”blkBorder” />
Vulnerable: Kevin Pieterson is susceptible to left-arm spin
The captain, Strauss, is no less vulnerable and in need of a substantial score. Matt Prior is the best player of spin in the world, according to Pietersen. Not here he hasn’t been. Australia were lightly raced in Asia during their time at the top, and England have three visits to the continent in this calendar year.
Nobody said it would not be tough.
Indeed, the bowlers have acquitted themselves well and put England into a strong winning position on day four.
It is not as if the challenge should have been beyond a group of batsmen with such magnificent pre-tour billing.
Pakistan’s spinners are good, but cannot summon such terrifying ability overnight. Rehman is a 31-year-old left-armer with 14 Tests’ experience, whose previous best figures were 4-51 against Bangladesh. He took 6-25 in the second innings.
Ajmal has now become the quickest bowler to 100 wickets in Pakistan history, having collected 17 victims in four innings against England. The same number of bowling opportunities yielded nine against Bangladesh recently.
Hopeless: England's batsmen could not cope with Rehman and Ajmal
England’s batsmen looked as hopelessly lost as when crumbling to 51 all out in Jamaica in 2009. That side, however, was crawling from the wreckage of the fall-out between former captain Pietersen and coach Peter Moores. Andy Flower was no more than a caretaker coach and there were fears for team strength and spirit after such a fractious episode. When the collapse came, it seemed an accident waiting to happen.
Nothing of such gloomy significance was expected here.
Yes, Pakistan’s mercurial nature suggests they should be afforded respect, but not to this extent.
When Australia finally lost in Asia it was to a fine Indian side, soon to be No 1 themselves, and they drew two of those four Tests. There was no equivalent capitulation: Australia’s lowest score was a fourth-innings 195 to lose in Mohali.
The Best Team In The World do not get bowled out for 72, mate. Ever.
The presumption will be that England have become too cocky, that they have arrived in Asia expecting just to check in and win. If anything, it is the opposite. England played on Saturday with a crippling sense of caution.
They scored so slowly it was as if the batsmen were waiting to be picked off.
They played like a team who could not possibly believe they were the world’s No 1: a view now shared by many, including, most worryingly, the Pakistan team they face for a third time in Dubai next week.
AND WHILE WE'RE AT IT
Rio Ferdinand – Lord Twitter of Peckham
Last summer, Rio Ferdinand sent a friend of mine a direct message, via Twitter. It wasn’t very nice. ‘U fat p****,’ it began. My friend, being a journalist, made its contents public. Ferdinand got even angrier.
Revealing the contents of a private message is an affront to Twitter etiquette, apparently. Ferdinand came across like an 140-character Debrett’s. Lord Twitter of Peckham. You’d think he had invented the medium, really you would.
This is interesting again only because Ferdinand is one of the celebrity names under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading for using his Twitter account to place advertisements, without warning. Ferdinand sent a succession of cryptic tweets about a new-found interest in knitting, culminating in a picture of a Snickers bar and the tagline: ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry.’
Got a lot to say: Rio Ferdinand is a heavy user of Twitter
‘Online advertising and marketing practices that do not disclose paid-for promotions are deceptive under trading laws,’ said an OFT spokesman. Sir Ian Botham is another embroiled in the row. The word is he was paid 15,000 for his tweets about learning to play the cello.
We do not know whether Ferdinand was similarly rewarded but, either way, it is confusing that he is willing to treat his precious tweets like a giant corporate cash cow. Obviously, though, he will reserve the right to continue judging any of his flock that eat too much chocolate and become fat. He’s very principled that way.
Tevez wrong to blame Mancini
Recalling the reasons for the conflict between Carlos Tevez and Manchester City has the same effect as one of those brain training exercises designed to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.
Was it his wife, was it Roberto Mancini, was it Garry Cook Maybe it was Roberto Mancini’s wife, or maybe Roberto Mancini’s cook. Maybe Mancini’s wife wouldn’t cook and that was why Tevez had to leave Manchester and move to Milan to be nearer Argentina; or something like that.
Getting all the mitigations in the right order is such a fantastic mental workout that even if you’ve got the body of Tutankhamun in later life, you’ll have the IQ of a Cambridge honours graduate.
Not missed: Carlos Tevez will not be missed in the Premier League
Presenting an increasingly risible figure, Tevez’s adviser Kia Joorabchian now insists the whole affair is the fault of City manager Mancini, as if there would have been any question of this impasse if Tevez had not behaved like an insolent child during the match with Bayern Munich and at just about all times subsequently.
Throughout, the Tevez camp has underestimated City’s resolve, their support for the manager and the utter revulsion of the public at this extreme demonstration of player power.
Flouncing off to Buenos Aires and the ensuing brinkmanship over the AC Milan loan deal was acutely misjudged and merely hardened City’s stance, while cementing the support of all neutrals.
Sole: Roberto Mancini is the only person genuinely sad about what has happened
Everyone who cares for football recognises City are making an important stand. There have been too many excuses advanced for Tevez, too many indulgences and too many contradictions. He has exhausted the patience of his employers, and the understanding of fans, even those with no allegiance to City.
There is a total absence of desire to see Tevez in action in the Premier League again. Most neutrals have even stronger feelings about this than Mancini.
When Tevez’s manager speaks of the rift, he seems genuinely sad; the rest couldn’t care if the player trains alone until the day his contract expires. /01/29/article-2093505-118038CA000005DC-550_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Everywhere: You could even bet on incidents between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand” class=”blkBorder” />
Everywhere: You could even bet on incidents between John Terry and Anton Ferdinand
Meanwhile, the pre-match expression of mutual respect was abandoned because the Queens Park Rangers players were planning to turn it into another media circus. Anyone else feel like stuffing their face into a cushion and screaming
More pain for Murray
No doubt after his narrow defeat by Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray heard many kind words. It was only a matter of time, he was getting closer, in any other era he would be great, he was still young, this could be his year.
And, no doubt, Murray smiled wanly, while inside felt like screaming and smashing the place to bits. And after that, I would not blame him if he did.
Frustration: Andy Murray could be forgiven for getting angry