Tag Archives: shortcomings

Manchester City aren"t the "unit" they were last season, says Gael Clichy

We're not playing like champions, admits Clichy as Man City struggle to gel in title defence

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UPDATED:

07:55 GMT, 14 December 2012

Gael Clichy believes Manchester City's shortcomings this season can be put down to failing to gel as a team.

Last weekend the defending champions lost the Manchester derby to title rivals United, suffering their first Barclays Premier League defeat of the season and first at home for almost two years.

It handed the Red Devils a six-point advantage at the top of the table but Clichy knows that is not insurmountable.

Who wants me Gael Clichy says he and his team aren't working as a unit

Who wants me Gael Clichy says he and his team aren't working as a unit

'For me the problem this year is that we are not playing as well as a unit as we did last year and that's what we have to work on,' he said.

'I am very confident though because we have the quality and I am sure we are going to be there at the end of the season. I personally believe and feel that we have a mission and its aim is to become champions again.

'The feeling within the team is great at the moment and I hope that the fans are behind us because we will need them to go all the way.'

Clichy, whose mistake led to the free-kick from which United scored the 90th-minute winner, insists they can take positives from the United defeat.

And he hopes the trip to Newcastle will spark them back into life tomorrow although they will have to do it without key defensive midfielder Gareth Barry as he serves a one-match ban after accepting an FA charge of using abusive and/or insulting words to an official in an incident after the United defeat.

'We hadn't lost a game for a long time at the Etihad but it's done now and the only thing we can do is focus on the positive things that happened during that game,' said the Frenchman.

Record breakers: Man City lost their proud unbeaten record to rivals unit

Record breakers: Man City lost their proud unbeaten record to rivals unit

'We went 2-0 down and again we showed great team spirit in getting it back to 2-2 – apart from the last 20 minutes of the first half, I don't think they were on top of us.

'When you lose a game in the last minute it's always difficult – but we can't feel sorry for ourselves.

'We know what we did well and what we didn't do so well and we have to try to avoid those bad points.'

Kevin Pietersen should have been dropped: Nasser Hussain

Flower is justified in taking a hard line on Pietersen

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 12 August 2012

I have always believed that you should pick your best players and then manage them, whatever their shortcomings. Genius is very often flawed. But I am afraid that Kevin Pietersen has run out of chances and the ECB are absolutely right to drop him now.

It gives me no pleasure to say that because Pietersen is a special player and England will be weaker for his absence at Lord’s on Thursday. South Africa will certainly be chuffed to bits about this because, however good James Taylor and Jonny Bairstow might become, I’m sure Dale Steyn and company will prefer bowling to them this week than KP.

But I am afraid enough is enough. Over the last week, Kevin has acted like a child who does not know what he wants and, as any teacher will tell you, you only need one unruly kid in the class and the whole structure of the classroom can come crashing down.

Out on his ear: Kevin Pietersen has been dropped for the third Test

Sit this one out: Kevin Pietersen has been dropped for the third Test

I have never been a big fan of the concept of team spirit. That usually comes with winning matches. But unity and trust are different issues and whenever I went on to the field I needed the trust of those around me. There were players I didn’t like and who didn’t like me, but we all had to trust each other out on that field to act as a team.

I know for a fact there are players within this England side who cannot stand Kevin Pietersen, but that antipathy has not stopped them becoming the best Test team in the world. The question now is whether or not it has reached the point where it is genuinely having an adverse affect on the team.

It is so unfair of Kevin to say that he has never been backed by England, nor supported by them. There have been a lot of issues with him in the past, but they have been resolved without him being left out, and Andy Flower has done his utmost to cater for him and look after him where possible.

We have all sent texts where we have perhaps bickered about someone or criticised them. I’ve no doubt that some of my England team might have moaned about me to the other players when I left them out or when I decided to bowl first at Brisbane.

Wide of the mark: Pietersen has crossed a line in saying he has not enjoyed support from England

Wide of the mark: Pietersen has crossed a line in saying he has not enjoyed support from England

More from Nasser Hussain…

Nasser Hussain: I have sympathy for Pietersen but Tests must be his priority
07/08/12

Nasser Hussain: Broad's heroics prove that series is not over for England
06/08/12

Nasser Hussain: Magic Matt should be back in England one-day frame
05/08/12

Nasser Hussain Test dossier: England register on mettle detector
03/08/12

Nasser Hussain: Why have England fiddled with the tactics which made them world No 1
02/08/12

Nasser Hussain: How England can tame the big three of South Africa
01/08/12

Nasser Hussain: Finn would add 'oomph' to England's tired attack after South Africa defeat
23/07/12

Nasser Hussain: Taming Swann was key to South Africa's run torrent
22/07/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Yet there is a big difference between
that and undermining the team by sending derogatory texts about your
team-mates to opposition players. If Pietersen has done that then he has
crossed the line. Flower and Andrew Strauss do not deserve that after
all they have done for England and Pietersen the individual.

There
is only so much mental energy that Flower can have, and if he is
expounding far too much of it on Pietersen, then that cannot be healthy
for him or England. For instance, was the decision to leave Graeme Swann
out at Headingley the result of scrambled brains because of so much
attention on one man within the team

The
selectors should have had a two-hour meeting on Friday to pick the team
for the final Test and the one-day and Twenty20 squads to face South
Africa later this month. But that turned into a three-day session,
essentially because of one man. England have to plan for a must-win
Test, but so far it has all been about Kevin.

Pietersen
has made a lot of mistakes in the last week or so, from the content of
his press conference after the second Test to his decision to put a
video on YouTube on Saturday night without the blessing of the ECB. Why
didn’t he do a proper press conference with England if he wanted to
withdraw his one-day retirement And I didn’t hear him say sorry once in
the video he put out. He always flexes his muscles when he is at his
absolute best on the field but that was a time when a bit of humility
might not have gone amiss.

Not the mark of genius: Pietersen's YouTube interview was unwise

Not the mark of genius: Pietersen's YouTube interview was unwise

It
just seems that everywhere he goes he wants to move on to somewhere
else that will eventually prove to be more lucrative. I am sure the
bottom line in all this is his desire to play a full Indian Premier
League campaign, but he seems to have forgotten that it is with England
that he has achieved his fame and earned his fortune. England have made
him, not let him down.

Is
there a way back for him with England now I hope so. I really do. But
for that to happen, Kevin has to have a good, long look at himself,
clear his mind and decide exactly what he wants from life and what will
really make him happy. If that is a career playing lucrative Twenty20
cricket as a freelance player then fine, but at least be honest and
don’t keep on sending out mixed messages.

Again,
we do not want to have a team full of goody two-shoes players or
yes-men. In my England side, Andy Caddick sometimes said silly things
or rubbed his team-mates up the wrong way but we embraced him and
concentrated on what he was good at, rather than focusing on his
weaknesses. And Caddy could be an exceptional bowler for England. Pietersen is world-class, so I hope this is not the end for him in an
England shirt.

But Andy
Flower took on Robert Mugabe, so he can deal with Kevin Pietersen very
comfortably, if the point comes when it all gets to be too much. Andy is
also a winner, and he will want his best players in the team.
Pietersen is without doubt one of England’s best players. It is up to
him now to show that he truly does still want to be part of Team
England. And once back, stay there.

London 2012 Olympics Football: Ryan Giggs admits Great Britain shortcomings

Giggs admits Great Britain weren't good enough after crashing out on penalties

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UPDATED:

22:35 GMT, 5 August 2012

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Now Ryan Giggs knows what tournament football is really like. On a night when a dream ended in familiar fashion, Team GB’s captain was forced to admit shortcomings after an agonising penalty shootout defeat.

While this nation’s athletes were being spectacularly making history in the Olympic Stadium, the footballers found history being frustratingly repeated as South Korea held their nerve to win 5-4 on spot-kicks after Daniel Sturridge saw his effort saved by Bumyoung Lee.

It meant that there was no dream finale for Giggs, whose glittering career had lacked an appearance at a major tournament, but there was no sense the Manchester United star felt hard done by as he explained Team GB’s quarter-final elimination.

Crashing out on penalties: Ryan Giggs saw Great Britain go out of the Olympics on spot kicks

Crashing out on penalties: Ryan Giggs saw Great Britain go out of the Olympics on spot kicks

‘We weren’t good enough’ said Giggs, reflecting on a game that ended 1-1 after 120 minutes. ‘That is the bottom line. Our luck ran out and it could have gone either way. Not going to a tournament with Wales will always be a (personal) disappointment. We were never good enough, it’s simple.

‘But I will look back on this experience with great pride. To captain the Great Britain side has been a privilege. Obviously it is disappointing to have lost like we did but the overall experience has been nothing but positive.’

While the climax to the evening was dramatic, there was a slightly surreal atmosphere at times, as chants of “One Jessie Ennis!” and “One Mo Farah!” broke out, as news filtered through of their achievements in London.

Moment of truth: Daniel Sturridge misses his penalty in the shoot out

Moment of truth: Daniel Sturridge misses his penalty in the shoot out

It gave a sense that football was intruding on the main event but Team GB head coach Stuart Pearce, who saw Aaron Ramsey miss a penalty in the 40th minute, shortly after he had equalised a strike from Sunderland’s Ji Dongwon from the spot, feels the sport’s place on the schedule was merited.

‘I've been walking around the Olympic park and bumping into families who are telling me it's their first game and how they've never been to football together before,’ he said.

‘I think these people have really enjoyed it. We've touched another audience.

Learning experience: The Great Britain team watch as they lose on penalties

Learning experience: The Great Britain team watch as they lose on penalties

‘It would be interesting to know how many were first-time football fans coming to the games. If they've turned up and enjoyed the experience under the Olympic umbrella, I think it's been a real success. I really do.’

Pearce will now return to his role as England Under-21 Head Coach but he feels Sturridge and Tom Cleverley, two young men who have graduated through the ranks, are now in line for regular senior action. It could be that Roy Hodgson selects them for his squad to face Italy in a friendly next week.

‘I certainly think they’ll be around the squad,’ said Pearce. ‘With the talent that’s available, I think the way Cleverley can handle the ball and with Sturridge’s eye for goal, they’re two individuals who can be in and around the senior England team.

‘That’s my opinion. They’ve both benefited from this tournament and they will both go back to their clubs, to Manchester United and Chelsea, with something to prove.’

Euro 2012: England missed Paul Scholes, says Michael Owen

England need new style of football… and they missed Scholes, says Owen

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UPDATED:

06:54 GMT, 25 June 2012

Michael Owen suggested technical shortcomings and the absence of Paul Scholes were the keys to England's exit from Euro 2012 after their penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

Although it came down to spot-kicks in the end, England could not argue as they had been second best while holding Italy in a goalless draw for 120 minutes.

Owen, a free agent after leaving Manchester United this summer, took to Twitter after the game to lament the absence of his former Old Trafford team-mate Scholes.

Pir-less: The Italian midfielder taught England a lesson in Kiev

Pir-less: The Italian midfielder taught England a lesson in Kiev

Euro 2012 email button

He wrote: 'Pirlo was awesome but we have a player of a similar age and equally as good. Unfortunately he wasn't there. Scholes.

'Easy for people to say “until we keep possession better we will never win anything”. We are not as good as others at doing that.

'We played to our strengths but are just not quite good enough. We were hoping to “do a Chelsea”. If you are not the best team then you have to find an alternative way to win.

'The other option is to forget results for a while and start from scratch playing a different style.

'Doubt we have the type of players to do
that though. Answer has to be to start coaching our youngsters a
different brand of football.'

Another
of Owen's former team-mates, Rio Ferdinand, sympathised with the
England players but again pointed to Italy's midfield master Andrea
Pirlo as the difference in the game, highlighting the Juventus
midfielder's audacious chipped penalty in the shoot-out.

Ferdinand tweeted: 'Wow, out on penalties again. Gutted for the lads man.

'On a pure footballing note Pirlo just put on a pure footballing master class + the penalty was too much'.

The once-capped Joey Barton was, as usual, not short of an opinion either, saying England deserved to come in second best.

Comeback trail: Scholes made a dramatic return to United last term

Comeback trail: Scholes made a dramatic return to United last term

'What is it with us and penalties Saved us from the embarrassment of a pasting off Germany in the next round' he wrote.

'Even the most biased Englishmen has to admit that Italy were much the better team over 120mins… sadbuttrue'.

Former England manager Graham Taylor
believes current boss Roy Hodgson got his tactics wrong and that a
shoot-out victory would not have been enough to paper over the cracks in
the performance.

'If we'd won, we'd all be excited and
we'd all be saying things but in the back of our minds would be the 120
minutes where we were the second best team,' Taylor told Five Live.

'You know as well as I do that
tournament football is all about winning, and if we'd won the shoot-out I
would be as excited as the next man.

'But in Andrea Pirlo you've mentioned
a player there who had the freedom of the pitch. This is difficult, but
it's one of the things I learned from my time and that is that we were
never going to win anything playing 4-4-2.

'You can't allow yourself to be
outnumbered in the middle of the pitch because they play through the
team and yesterday Pirlo had the freedom of the pitch, so I think from a
tactical point of view that was a mistake.'

You've got to hand it to him: own has heaped praise on former team-mate Scholes

You've got to hand it to him: own has heaped praise on former team-mate Scholes

Like Owen, Taylor suggested a change of culture is needed in English football.

'It's about style of play,' he said. 'They are very comfortable on the ball and apparently going nowhere for a lot of time. That is something we are getting more and more aware of, possession is nine-tenths of the law in that regard.

'Italy basically kept the ball from us and dominated possession and had more shots. England looked tired as the competition went on and we've seen that before in many respects. But the difference between our club football and our international football is there to be seen.'

Taylor also wondered if some of England's older players – not least captain Steven Gerrard – might now be reaching the end of their England careers.

'Steven Gerrard gave everything to the cause in this tournament, but time catches up with everyone, no matter how good you are, and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the next two years,' he said.

Sergio Aguero told to quit Manchester City for Real Madrid by Maradona

Quit now! Aguero urged to swap City for Madrid by father-in-law Maradona

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UPDATED:

14:13 GMT, 3 April 2012

Sergio Aguero's father-in-law, the great Maradona, has urged the Manchester City striker to quit England for Real Madrid at the end of the season.

'Kun' has only been at the Etihad since last summer when Roberto Mancini paid a club record 38million to Atletico Madrid for his services.

Aguero has enjoyed a better-than-expected debut campaign in the Premier League, scoring 17 times despite a series of niggling injuries.

Wanted man: Sergio Aguero was a target for Real Madrid before choosing Manchester City

Wanted man: Sergio Aguero was a target for Real Madrid before choosing Manchester City

Go that way: Diego Maradona think Aguero made a mistake and should move to Madrid soon

Go that way: Diego Maradona think Aguero made a mistake and should move to Madrid soon

The latest of those resulted a public telling off by boss Mancini after it became known the striker was suffering with blisters as a result of an anaesthetic freeze spray, applied after a knock against Chelsea.

And now, after City's shortcomings in Europe (they failed to escape the group stage in the Champions League), Aguero has been urged Maradona to jump ship for Spain.

Maradona told Radio de la Red: 'Kun has to play for Real Madrid. Even though he is flying at City, the best thing would have been to sign for Madrid. He made a mistake.

'Now, as he is doing so well, it will be difficult to get him from City. However if Madrid want someone, they get them. Florentino [Perez, the club boss] has no limits. It's a question of convincing City – but not with money because they have plenty of that.'

Spanish newspaper AS reported on Tuesday that the La Liga leaders were considering a swap deal that would involve sending Gonzalo Higuain plus 8.5m the other way.

The striker, who is an international team-mate of Aguero, has been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea as well as clubs in Italy, including Juventus.

Better together: The striking pair are international team-mates with Argentina

Better together: The striking pair are international team-mates with Argentina

AS claim Aguero has already discussed
a potential move back to the Spanish capital with team-mates, and that
there is a growing feeling a move will materialise this summer.

Real manager
Jose Mourinho, though, has dismissed the story, claiming that the
country's media are trying to destabilise his team as they chase a
domestic and European double.

The Portuguese, speaking at a press conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final second leg against APOEL Nicosia, said: 'You (the press) want to destabilise the squad. Last week I had signed for (Manchester) City, (Iker) Casillas was going to Schalke, Higuain to Malaga…'

Dismissed: Jose Mourinho has launched an attack on the Spanish media

Dismissed: Jose Mourinho has launched an attack on the Spanish media

On the Higuain-Aguero story, he added: 'The front cover of (newspaper) AS is false. If you want me to comment on false front covers then forget it.'

Meanwhile, the club's director of institutional relations Emilio Butragueno also dismissed the suggestion of selling Higuain.

'Rumours seem to be inevitable,' he
told the club's official website. 'But we are delighted with Higuain.
He's scored 24 goals in 20 league games and just remember I was the
league's top scorer with 19.

'He
is a world-class striker and we intend for him to stay here many years.
He arrived here very young and we regard him as a club player. He has
always behaved impeccably, whether he plays or not.'

Dutch of class: Roberto Mancini has made no secret of his wish to sign Robin van Persie

Dutch of class: Roberto Mancini has made no secret of his wish to sign Robin van Persie

The report in AS added that a strong relationship between Real and City's owners – Perez and Sheikh Mansour – enhances the chances of a deal going through, while Mancini falters on his own prime target, Arsenal's Robin van Persie.

The Italian has made no secret of his admiration for the Dutchman – who is the Premier League's leading marksman – but has been met with resistance from Arsenal and the player's family.

Mancini, meanwhile, will listen to offers for Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez.

Steven Gerrard happy take goalscoring responsibility

Gerrard happy to take responsibility for getting Liverpool back in the goals

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 14 March 2012

The night was all about him. A 400th Premier League appearance for Liverpool, the first Merseyside derby hat-trick in nearly 30 years, and a match ball stuffed up his shirt.

Not for the first time, however, Steven Gerrard’s achievements only served to highlight the shortcomings of his team-mates this season as he inspired a 3-0 win over Everton at Anfield on Tuesday night.

Without their injured captain for long periods, Liverpool have struggled in front of goal. In fact, no team in the top eight has scored fewer times in the Premier League.

Easy as 1,2,3: Gerrard celebrates his hat-trick in the Merseyside derby

Easy as 1,2,3: Gerrard celebrates his hat-trick in the Merseyside derby

Luis Suarez and Craig Bellamy have scored six league goals each, but Andy Carroll, Dirk Kuyt, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam have contributed just seven between them.

It has undermined Liverpool’s bid for a return to the Champions League – they still lie seventh in the table, 10 points behind fourth-placed Arsenal – and Gerrard’s hat-trick was a reminder of what they have been missing.

‘You can talk about luck, things not going your way, but you have to take responsibility for putting the ball in the back of the net and against Everton it worked out for us,’ said Gerrard.

Part of the team: Gerrard celebrates with Luis Suarez

Part of the team: Gerrard celebrates with Luis Suarez

‘The big picture is that the squad is a lot stronger and we’re moving forward, but unless we have an end product we’re going to find themselves sixth or seventh in the league and that’s not what we want.

‘With the players we’ve got we should be higher in the league, it’s as simple as that. But inconsistency has been the story of our season.

‘You can’t choose when you turn up. You can’t be 8 out of 10 one week and then 2 or 3 out of 10 otherwise teams will beat you.’

Old guard: Gerrard and Jamie Carragher celebrate

Old guard: Gerrard and Jamie Carragher celebrate

It was typical of Gerrard that he would swap all the personal accolades from Tuesday night just to see Liverpool snatch a Champions League place or return to Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final by beating Stoke at home this weekend.

‘It’s nice to get a hat-trick but I’m not really interested in personal achievements,’ added the England midfielder who lifted the Carling Cup at Wembley last month.

‘What’s important to me is that we move up the league and we get to Wembley on Sunday in the FA Cup. It would be a fantastic achievement if we could get there twice.’

Sir Alex Ferguson admits Athletic Bilbao were better team

Bilbao sock it to bitter United as Ferguson admits his side were well beaten

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UPDATED:

23:30 GMT, 8 March 2012

Manchester United are facing Europa League elimination after a shock defeat by Athletic Bilbao that ended in bitter controversy at Old Trafford.

Sir Alex Ferguson struck a defiant note about United’s prospects of overturning a 3-2 scoreline in the last-16 tie, but they are up against it after an 89th-minute incident that left them seething.

Controversy: Manchester United were left fuming after a free-kick was awarded against Patrice Evra for playing the ball without one of his boots on

Controversy: Manchester United were left fuming after a free-kick was awarded against Patrice Evra for playing the ball without one of his boots on

Controversy: Manchester United were left fuming after a free-kick was awarded against Patrice Evra for playing the ball without one of his boots on

German referee Florian Meyer penalised Patrice Evra for kicking the ball after one of his boots had come off and from the resulting free-kick Iker Muniain forced home Bilbao’s third goal.

United striker Javier Hernandez complained to Bilbao coach Marcelo Bielsa that his side should have returned the ball to United, but FIFA laws state an indirect free-kick should be awarded against any player who touches the ball while not wearing both boots.

Ferguson said: ‘The third goal, I don’t know how you describe it. The referee's stopped play … the issue that Patrice didn't have a boot on, they say you're not allowed to do that.'

Quick to pounce: Bilbao's Iker Muniain compounded United's frustrations by blasting home. Fernando Llorente had equalised for the Spanish side (below)

Quick to pounce: Bilbao's Iker Muniain compounded United's frustrations by blasting home. Fernando Llorente had equalised for the Spanish side (below)

Quick to pounce: Bilbao's Iker Muniain compounded United's frustrations by blasting home

However, Ferguson was unable to continue his assessment on Channel 5, because, incredibly, he was stopped by the interviewer, who apologised and explained the programme had run out of time and had to go off air.

Before he was interrupted, the United manager berated his side’s defensive shortcomings but insisted they could still rescue the tie in the return leg.

He said: 'Our defending really wasn’t very good at all, and that kept us on the back foot. But it was a really open, entertaining game, and our attacking play was good at times.

Bloody hell: United were ramshackle at the back, and even more so after Chris Smalling left the pitch with a head injury

Bloody hell: United were ramshackle at the back, and even more so after Chris Smalling left the pitch with a head injury

'They were the better team on the night, but we can win the game over there, no question about it. We showed we can create chances against them, but we are going to have to defend a lot better. That goes without saying.

'I am going to have to look at ways of possibly bringing Rio Ferdinand back in. He is so important to us, in terms of experience at the back, so I will have to see if that can be done, without disrupting things in the Premier League.'

England lose third Test with Pakistan and slump to 3-0 whitewash

England slump to humiliating 71-run defeat as Pakistan complete 3-0 series whitewash

England's miserable Test tour of the Middle East reached an appropriately sorry conclusion today with a 71-run defeat, and resulting 3-0 whitewash, against Pakistan.

England had to banish memories of their previous failings here to have any chance of pulling off the second-highest fourth-innings chase in their history.

In the end, despite Matt Prior's late defiance, they did not even come close on the way to a four-day beating at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

Game over: Pakistan broke England's resistance and sealed a comfortable win on day four

Game over: Pakistan broke England's resistance and sealed a comfortable win on day four

World's best England maintain their No 1 status, despite the crushing defeat

World's best England maintain their No 1 status, despite the crushing defeat

England v Pakistan: third Test

Click here for a full scorecard

For the record, they mustered 252 all
out in pursuit of 324 as Saeed Ajmal (four for 67) and Umar Gul (four
for 61) sentenced them to their first series whitewash since the Ashes
of 2006/07 which curtailed Andrew Flintoff's long-term captaincy
ambitions and hastened the end of Duncan Fletcher's coaching tenure.

No such watershed is in order this
time, after England's first series since completing their march to the
top of the International Cricket Council world rankings.

Their shortcomings, with bat but not
ball, have nonetheless been all too evident over the past three weeks –
and it is a measure of their fallibility that they should contrive to
lose this last Test after having Pakistan 44 for seven on the first
morning.

The hosts recovered to 99 all out,
yet this is the first example since 1907 of a team winning a Test match
after falling short of three figures at their first attempt.

Plenty to ponder: A number of England batsmen failed again - including Pietersen who was gated by Ajmal (below)

Plenty to ponder: A number of England batsmen failed again – including Pietersen who was gated by Ajmal (below)

Plenty to ponder: A number of England batsmen failed again - including Pietersen who was gated by Ajmal (below)

So often in this series, England's
out-of-form batsmen have simply been unable to establish themselves at
the crease in these alien climes against Pakistan spinners Ajmal and
Abdur Rehman.

The final act was merely a variation
on that theme, almost everyone coming through the 'danger period'
England identified at the start of each batsman's innings only to then
get out in pairs just when it seemed the habitual trend of failure might
conceivably be bucked.

Top Spin

The afternoon wickets of Kevin
Pietersen, Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan followed those of
Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott this morning.

Ajmal was the chief tormentor of
England's top order, bowling in tandem for much of the second session
with Rehman – who was unchanged for 30 overs.

Gul then accelerated England's
descent to defeat. But it was the slow left-armer who struck the first
blow when Strauss, who had already survived a straightforward
caught-behind chance off Gul, went without addition lbw on the back
foot.

Trott then fell shortly before lunch,
sweeping Ajmal straight to deep backward-square. Cook's luck was in
during an ultra-patient 187-ball 49 which took more than four hours.

Nemesis: England were undone by Ajmal (above) and Gul (below) once again

Nemesis: England were undone by Ajmal (above) and Gul (below) once again

Nemesis: England were undone by Ajmal (above) and Gul (below) once again

But England needed much more than a
touch of good fortune if their out-of-form batsmen were to achieve even
qualified redemption on this fair pitch.

Cook passed a notable personal
milestone when, with his 22nd run, he became the second-youngest batsman
in cricket history to reach 6,000 in Tests.

He ought to have gone last night,
dropped at third slip off Gul on just four, and this morning was put
down on 31 by Gul himself after mis-sweeping Rehman into the leg-side
deep.

He was also the batsman on strike
when Pakistan squandered their final DRS option, Ajmal reviewing an lbw
for an off-break that pitched outside leg-stump.

England had one precious review still
available, after Strauss used up the first one to no avail. But it was
to be no use to any of their frontline batsmen.

Pietersen hinted at much better when
he went up the wicket to Rehman and hit him for a straight four and then
six in the same over – shots that raised stoic England's scoring rate
to almost two runs an over.

Same old story: Cook managed a respectable 49 (above) but Bell's most recent failure (below) means he has averaged 8.5 in this series

Same old story: Cook managed a respectable 49 (above) but Bell's most recent failure (below) means he has averaged 8.5 in this series

Same old story: Cook managed a respectable 49 (above) but Bell's most recent failure (below) means he has averaged 8.5 in this series

But Ajmal, scourge of the tourists
with his doosras in the first Test here, out-thought both Pietersen and
Cook with conventional off-breaks this time.

He bowled Pietersen between bat and
pad, on the front-foot defence, from round the wicket – and then had
Cook, trying to push his 50th run to leg, very well-caught at slip by a
diving Younus Khan.

Bell and Morgan appeared to tame the
spinners with the old ball, only to fall in quick succession when
Misbah-ul-Haq turned back to Gul's pace.

It was a lack of that which did for
Bell, embarrassingly mistiming a cut for a simple catch at cover – and
then Gul produced a fine delivery to find Morgan's edge for a
caught-behind on the back foot.

England had lost two big wickets for
just three runs for the second time in the innings, a statistic they
could ill afford if they were to get anywhere near such a tough target.

All but the most fanciful hopes of
that were gone by tea – and although Prior and the tail tried to salvage
some pride with a counter-attack, it was little more than a token
effort from a team who may not now still be top of that Test table when
the annual awards are handed out at the start of April.

Party time! Pakistan celebrate completing the 3-0 series whitewash

Party time! Pakistan celebrate completing the 3-0 series whitewash