Tag Archives: trent

England in a fine mess: KP punishment riles players but Strauss focused on series win

England in a fine mess: KP punishment riles players but Strauss focused on series win



22:39 GMT, 24 May 2012

It is hardly ideal to risk alienating your star batsman and upsetting his team-mates on the eve of a Test but England managed just that with their ill-judged disciplining of Kevin Pietersen.

England do not get much wrong these days but fining Pietersen for his mild Twitter criticism of Nick Knight’s commentating as they prepared for their attempt at defeating West Indies and winning the Wisden Trophy at Trent Bridge is a rare error.

Andrew Strauss distanced his team from the move by making it clear it was an ECB decision to fine Pietersen what is believed to be 5,000 with half suspended, and privately the players are disappointed and concerned it sets a worrying precedent.

Shocked: Kevin Pietersen must pay for criticising Nick Knight

Shocked: Kevin Pietersen must pay for criticising Nick Knight

There are enough anodyne comments made by sportsmen without the ECB encouraging more by punishing an opinion which did not offend the amiable Knight. The biggest irony of the whole affair is that he is hardly the most provocative of Sky pundits.

The players see Twitter as a valuable way of communicating with their supporters but they will be worried that even the most innocuous views may be frowned upon by Lord’s after this.

There are no plans for the ECB to stop them using social networking sites but clearly the players will only be talking about ‘bowling in the right areas’ and being ‘delighted with my hundred’ now.

Pietersen was taken aback by the size of the fine but made light of it as he walked off Trent Bridge after England practice. ‘Just so you know, Botham, Gower, Hussain, Atherton and Bumble are legends. I love them,’ he said, smiling.

Playing it with a straight bat: Andrew Strauss in the nets at Trent Bridge

Playing it with a straight bat: Andrew Strauss in the nets at Trent Bridge

Strauss was more serious as he found questions about his own form ahead of his century at Lord’s last week being replaced by an interrogation around a very modern communications phenomenon.

‘This is a difficult one. Twitter is a great way for individuals to express opinions and it can garner positive publicity for the game,’ said a man who considers himself ‘too boring’ to have a Twitter account.

‘But we have conditions of employment that don’t allow us to talk about anything and everything. We can’t criticise the ICC, nor umpires and in this case the board wasn’t happy with Kevin’s comments with regard to our broadcaster.

‘This is an issue between the board and Kevin more than the players. We’ve not been particularly involved with it. But you can understand that the board are concerned with making sure their broadcasters and sponsors are happy.’

Handy Andy: Strauss speaks to Flower ahead of the second Test at Trent Bridge

Handy: Strauss speaks to Andy Flower ahead of the second Test

The England players have their own Twitter code of conduct and Strauss was not even sure that this ‘offence’, which was first highlighted by Charles Sale in Sports Agenda on Tuesday, contravened that.

‘That’s a tough one,’ admitted Strauss. ‘It’s a shade of grey but the fact is the board were unhappy about it.’

All of which took attention away from the prospect of a second Investec Test starting today at sun-baked Trent Bridge which should perfectly suit the swing of Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.

West Indies looked much happier with the sun on their backs yesterday but they will be even bigger underdogs here than on the flat Lord’s wicket where they took the first Test to a fifth day.

Picture perfect: Trent Bridge in Nottingham will play host to the second Test

Picture perfect: Trent Bridge in Nottingham will play host to the second Test

Michael Holding launched a passionate attack on the inadequacies of the modern West Indies in Sportsmail but captain Darren Sammy defended the attempt by himself and coach Ottis Gibson to create a new, more professional outfit.

‘Everybody is entitled to their opinion but coach Gibson and I are trying to build something here for the future,’ said Sammy. ‘Everybody might not like it but the team have been responding in the last few series.

‘Ottis came on board with new ideas about working hard for ourselves and the team. We are trying to build a brand of cricket where Caribbean fans can see our determination and passion. So far we’ve been able to compete against the higher-ranked teams and anyone who comes into this set-up has to abide by what we are doing. We just need that first victory to get our dressing room pumped up.’

It will be a surprise if West Indies get that elusive victory here, even though they have never lost a Test nor even a first-class game at Trent Bridge.

Mind the windows: The ebullient Tino Best has replaced Shannon Gabriel

Mind the windows: The ebullient Tino Best has replaced Shannon Gabriel

West Indies were joined by the colourful Tino Best as a replacement for the injured Shannon Gabriel, who turned up for breakfast at the team hotel wearing a Chelsea shirt with ‘Drogba’ on the back. There really is no accounting for taste.

Best will not play today but spinner Shane Shillingford will and Ravi Rampaul is pressing hard for a place, meaning West Indies may leave out their one real swing bowler, Fidel Edwards. The obvious candidate to stand down, as Holding was saying, is Sammy but the captain can hardly drop himself.

Pietersen is too professional to be distracted by ‘Skygate’ but at least his nemesis will not be at Trent Bridge to upset him again.

Former England batsman Knight was instead at Hove commentating on a CB40 game for Sky and was never due to work at Trent Bridge. Instead the commentators Pietersen does approve of will almost certainly be talking about another England victory.

Warrington want to offer older players new deals

Warrington planning on rewarding old guard with new deals



09:08 GMT, 21 May 2012

Warrington coach Tony Smith is hoping to reward his thirty-somethings with new contracts.

Captain Adrian Morley, who recently turned 35, full-back Brett Hodgson, 34, hooker Micky Higham, 31, stand-off Lee Briers, 33, and back row forward David Solomona, 34, are among those out of contract at the end of the season.

And, although Smith knows he must make room in the club's salary cap for their crop of emerging youngsters, he says he would be loathe to lose such vast experience just yet.

Hopeful: Tony Smith (right) would like to offer some older players new deals

Hopeful: Tony Smith (right) would like to offer some older players new deals

'I love them all,' he said. 'They are all terrific players and terrific people and I'd like to keep them all. We'll see what we can do there.

'We've started talking to them and we'll make some decisions in a little while and filter those out as we do.

'The problem is you can't keep everybody forever. We've got some good young guys coming through and you've got to create space for them eventually, otherwise there's no point in producing those kids.

'We've got to give them the opportunity to step up. I'm not saying any of those are going, hopefully they will all be staying. I'd love them all to stay, they fit into our team very well.'

Morley has missed the Wolves' last six matches with a neck injury but, after being close to making his return in each of the last two games, is finally set to play against Widnes at the Magic Weekend in Manchester.

Warrington were also without second rower Trent Waterhouse, winger Joel Monaghan and Briers for yesterday's 42-12 Stobart Super League win at Wakefield which kept them in touch with leaders Wigan.

'They've been playing a lot of game time – they've a few bumps and bruises – and we're not going to take any risks on players at this stage of the year,' said Smith.

'Trent will be back next week, probably Lee too and also Joel Monaghan and Mozza is telling me he's ready to go for next week so I've got a few headaches.'

Stuart Broad exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: I'm fit and firing, it's going to be a summer of fun, says Broad



22:00 GMT, 13 May 2012

Stuart Broad sat in the pavilion at Trent Bridge and contemplated the improvement in his bowling that, despite being interrupted by injuries, has taken him to the top of his game.

‘I feel like I know what I’m doing now,’ said Broad, back at his ‘favourite’ home ground, where he took a hat-trick last year against India. ‘I’ve got my wrist in a good position and if I can just get back into that bowling rhythm I will be fine.

‘I believe I’ve turned the corner as a bowler and if I can continue the form this summer that I showed against India and Pakistan, then that will be a breakthrough for me. To keep pushing forward, being consistent and developing my skills, is my aim.’

Fully focused: England's Stuart Broad has put his injury woes behind him to hit top form going into the Test series against West Indies

Fully focused: England's Stuart Broad has put his injury woes behind him to hit top form going into the Test series against West Indies

In truth, Broad, approaching his 26th birthday, is close to the peak of his powers; the days when he was accused of bowling too short against Sri Lanka in his ‘enforcer’ role last year long gone.

That hat-trick on a glorious Saturday in Nottingham was the highlight for Broad of a series in which he took 25 wickets and England rose to the top of the world rankings. He followed it with 13 more against Pakistan but, well as he and the rest of the England attack bowled, the series was lost 3-0. A blip or more of a worry

‘I don’t think we can call it a blip,’ said Broad as he warmed up for Thursday’s first Test against West Indies by playing for Notts against Middlesex. ‘It’s a worry because we’re going back to the subcontinent next winter for four Tests against India and we will have to change if we are going to win there. India will just create turning wickets and bowl spin at us.

‘We can’t sweep it under the carpet because we’ve got technical issues against spin but we have good enough players to solve them.’

Key man: Broad celebrates his hat-trick against India last year

Key man: Broad celebrates his hat-trick against India last year

It was the bowling that was supposed to be the worry in subcontinental conditions but Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Co excelled. ‘I look very positively on the winter from a bowling point of view,’ said Broad. ‘It proved that if we score runs we’ll win games because we are finding ways of getting 20 wickets in all conditions and that has been a problem in the subcontinent. We just didn’t score runs this winter until the last Test.’

That last success against Sri Lanka in Colombo, crucial after a run of four defeats that threatened to undo all England’s good Test work, was achieved without Broad. His injury ‘curse’, which has seen him miss part of the last Ashes, World Cup and the one-day series in India, had struck again. This time, however, the injury that he suffered on the first morning of England’s first Sri Lankan tour game was more than a little unlucky. He took his attempts to emulate Glenn McGrath a little too far by hurting himself freakishly during the warm-up.

‘I went back for a high catch, jumped, caught it and landed on the rope, damaging my ankle ligaments. It was never really right after that,’ said Broad.

Back home: Broad sits in the stands at Trent Bridge

Back home: Broad sits in the stands at Trent Bridge

Standing tall: Broad is excited about England's summer

Standing tall: Broad is excited about England's summer

‘I went into the first Test with it heavily strapped. I was trying to protect my left ankle and my right calf was taking too much. The biggest sign that I wasn’t right was that I bowled eight no-balls and I never bowl no-balls. That proved I was running differently. I still bowled OK in the first Test and got Dilshan a couple of times but I was not quite right. The calf then took a bit longer to fix than I expected.’

It meant he missed, for the second year running, his contracted stint with Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. Hooray, I say, because I cannot see how extra cricket is going to do England players any good, however well rewarded it is. Broad, as England’s Twenty20 captain, is understandably more diplomatic.

‘It was mixed feelings,’ he said. ‘I was very excited about experiencing the IPL. But the next two years of international cricket are frightening. We’ve got a very full winter of cricket at the end of this summer involving trips to Sri Lanka, India twice and New Zealand. The value of having a little bit of extra rest going into the international summer will serve me well.

Class act: Broad and Anderson (left) have become the most feared seam partnership in cricket

Class act: Broad and Anderson (left) have become the most feared seam partnership in cricket

‘There’s a lot of talk about getting England players over to the IPL but it will only be possible, really, if the ECB start releasing a little bit of time for it. Look at 2009 and the big Ashes series. /05/13/article-2143870-12FDD559000005DC-77_468x326.jpg” width=”468″ height=”326″ alt=”Opening up: Broad chats to Sportsmail's Paul Newman” class=”blkBorder” />

Opening up: Broad chats to Sportsmail's Paul Newman

Now he is ready to face West Indies, starting this week, and South Africa. ‘It will be a tough, exciting summer,’ said Broad. ‘As a young England fan I would have been going “wicked” at the prospect of this summer. There will be fast bowling, hundreds, good spinners, everything.

‘West Indies have two guys who can bowl 90mph and South Africa have two who can do that, plus another bowler who is one of the fastest ever to 50 wickets, and a good leg-spinner. But then look at our team, and we’ve got world-class batsmen, fast bowlers and spinners, so it will be a brilliant summer of cricket.

‘And we will have to play very well to win, which we need to do because we want to set the standards high. The boys are very aware of that.’
Broad will be central to those high standards.

Harry Redknapp puzzled by FA delay in appointing Roy Hodgson

What a drag! Harry puzzled by FA delay in appointing England boy Roy



23:40 GMT, 4 May 2012

Harry Redknapp confessed the appointment of Roy Hodgson as England manager came as a ‘relief’ but also questioned why the process took the FA nearly three months to complete.

‘It did drag on,’ said Redknapp. ‘I don’t know why they didn’t do it six weeks ago. What was the problem West Brom weren’t going to go down.’

Tottenham boss Redknapp, whose side are away to Aston Villa on Sunday, refutes suggestions that results suffered because of speculation that he was Fabio Capello’s chosen successor. But his assistant, Kevin Bond, was among those who feared it was having an impact.

Drag: Harry Redknapp does not understand why the FA took so long to appoint Hodgson

Drag: Harry Redknapp does not understand why the FA took so long to appoint Hodgson

‘Kevin thought there was a change,’ said Redknapp. ‘He was talking about how Southampton went after Gordon Strachan said he was going to leave and Manchester United after Fergie said he was going to retire.’

Asked whether Spurs chairman Daniel Levy thought it had damaged the club’s campaign, the manager replied: ‘I think he thinks it might have done. It was non-stop speculation but I didn’t lie in bed wondering what my England team was going to be. I only ever thought of Tottenham.’

Redknapp also hit back at claims about why the FA overlooked him in favour of Hodgson, such as the idea his wife Sandra did not like the idea of him working from the National Football Centre in Burton-on-Trent or that he was reluctant to nurture the next generation of talent.

‘Nobody watches more games than me, kids’ football and everything else, so that’s not a fact at all,’ said Redknapp. ‘I read my wife didn’t want me going to Burton every day but she doesn’t know where Burton is. She just says: ‘‘Whatever you do, Harry, is fine by me”.’

Our man: Roy Hodgson (right) will stay at West Brom until the end of the season

Our man: Roy Hodgson (right) will stay at West Brom until the end of the season

The FA’s approach to Hodgson was confirmed on Sunday, a couple of hours after Tottenham’s win over Blackburn. ‘I was quite relieved when I woke up on Monday and it was all out of the way,’ said Redknapp.

‘I didn’t have a decision to make and it wouldn’t have been an easy decision. I’ve got a great job. I’m managing a fantastic club with good players. I love going to places like Anfield, Old Trafford, Chelsea and the Emirates. I enjoy being with the players every day.

‘It would have been a different way of life. I’m not really one for being careful about every word I say. It took that decision away from me.’

RFL investigate Clint Greenshields

Catalan Dragons star Greenshields investigated over 'retard' jibe at ref



12:01 GMT, 21 April 2012

The Rugby Football League are to investigate comments made by Catalan Dragons full-back Clint Greenshields on his Twitter account about the display of referee Ben Thaler in his side's 34-18 defeat at Leeds.

Thaler's performance drew some stinging criticism from Catalan players, with the injured Greenshields, watching the match on television from France, posting: 'Holy s*** thaler is retarded. F*** me!'

In trouble: Clint Greenshields hit out at the referee after Leeds defeat

In trouble: Clint Greenshields hit out at the referee after Leeds defeat

Dragons coach Trent Robinson was caught unaware by the comments during the post-match press conference.

He said: 'I haven't seen any of that stuff. There's always a danger with those sort of comments. It's tough watching – you get emotional. I don't think Ben is retarded.'

A RFL spokesman confirmed this morning that the matter has been referred to the League's compliance department for investigation.

Greenshields could face a fine or suspension if he is found to have breached the RFL's Respect policy.

Leeds 34 Catalan Dragons 18: Debut score for Lunt eases Rhinos home

Leeds 34 Catalan Dragons 18: Debut score for Lunt eases Rhinos home



23:06 GMT, 20 April 2012

Brian McDermott hailed loan signing Shaun Lunt after the former England hooker got his Leeds career off to a dream start.

Lunt's 60th-minute try helped the
Rhinos secure victory in their best performance since the World Club
Challenge triumph over Manly.

Charging Rhinos: Shaun Lunt scored on debut as Leeds eased to victory over Catalan Dragons

Charging Rhinos: Shaun Lunt scored on debut as Leeds eased to victory over Catalan Dragons

McDermott said: 'Shaun's strong but he's only played one game so let's not make him king of everything yet.'

After Ben Jones-Bishop's early score, England winger Ryan Hall doubled Leeds' advantage.

The Dragons eventually forced their way over through Louis Anderson's rampaging run.

The Rhinos produced an instant response with Jones-Bishop's second score, before Zak Hardaker, Lunt and Ryan Bailey crossed after half time.

Dragons coach Trent Robinson said: 'We didn't do ourselves justice.'

Wigan 20 Warrington 22: Warriors pay penalty as Hodgson kicks winner

Wigan 20 Warrington 22: Warriors pay penalty as Hodgson kicks winner



00:15 GMT, 24 March 2012

Brett Hodgson's 40-metre penalty with eight minutes left took Warrington to Super League’s summit.

Hodgson kept his nerve when Wigan’s Epalahame Lauaki was penalised for a dangerous throw, and though the Wolves clung on, coach Tony Smith still wasn’t happy.

‘We’re frustrated with how we’re playing,’ said Smith. ‘We have to rectify that so we don’t have to do it the hard way.’

Try time! Wolves' Briers scores for the visitors

Try time! Wolves' Briers scores for the visitors

Match facts

Wigan: Tries: Hock, McIlorum, Richards.

Goals: Richards 2, Charnley 2.

Wigan: S. Tomkins, Charnley, Goulding, Carmont, Richards,
Finch, Leuluai, Prescott, McIlorum, Lauaki, Hansen, Hock,

Replacements: Flower for Prescott (24), Tuson for McIlorum (66), Lima for Lauaki (17), Farrell for Hansen (26).

Warrington: Tries: Atkins, J. Monaghan, Briers. Goals: Hodgson 5.

Warrington: Hodgson, Riley, C. Bridge, Atkins, J. Monaghan, Briers, Myler, Morley, M. Monaghan, Cooper, Waterhouse, Westwood, Grix.

Replacements: Blythe for C. Bridge (27), Wood for Cooper (20), Hill for Grix (27).

Substitutes: Dwyer.

Attendance: 21,267

Referee: Richard Silverwood (Dewsbury).

Warrington had briefly led following
Ryan Atkins’ early try, but Sam Tomkins set up Pat Richards at the start
of the second half to put the hosts in control, only for Lee Briers’
interception try to set up a tense finish.

Warriors boss Shaun Wane
said: ‘I feel like our pocket has been picked.’

The Wolves looked anything but likely victors in an error-strewn opening in which Simon Grix, Michael Monaghan and Trent Waterhouse put their side under enormous pressure by surrendering possession deep inside their own half.

Richards punished them with a penalty which took him past 2,000 points but it merely served to relieve the pressure and the Wolves scored the game's first try from their first meaningful attack.

Half-backs Lee Briers and Richie Myler moved the ball out to the left where centre Ryan Atkins proved unstoppable from 10 yards, taking Darrell Goulding and Josh Charnley over the line with him.

Hodgson's touchline goal made it 6-2 but then Wigan forward Gareth Hock came into his own, intercepting Joel Monaghan's pass to relieve pressure on his own line and causing havoc at the other with his powerful running and offloading.

He levelled the scores on 18 minutes, forcing his way over for a try from acting half-back, and Richards' second goal restored the Warriors' lead before substitute Liam Farrell's break set up the position for hooker Michael McIlorum to add a second try on 26 minutes.

The action was fast and furious as both sides continued to create chances only to be thwarted by magnificent defence.

Atkins came to Warrington's rescue
with a crucial tackle on birthday boy Sam Tomkins before Brett Finch
performed similar heroics to deny Briers and it took some exceptional
finishing by Warrington winger Joel Monaghan to break the deadlock.

Decider: Hodgson kicked the winning penalty

Decider: Hodgson kicked the winning penalty

The Australian took Hodgson's cut-out
pass to dive over at the corner five minutes before half-time and bring
his side to within two points.

Hodgson was inches wide with the goalkick but levelled the scores on the stroke of half-time with his first penalty.

try-saving heroics continued in the second half, with Chris Riley
halting Tomkins' trademark mazy run, but it set up the position for
George Carmont to get Richards over at the corner.

who took over the goalkicking with Richards nursing a thigh injury, was
off target for the second time but re-established his side's six-point
lead with a penalty.

Briers then intercepted Thomas Leuluai's pass to score Warrington's third try and Hodgson's goal made it 18-18.

second Charnley penalty on 55 minutes edged the home side back in front
and Richards had a try disallowed for putting a foot in touch as Wigan
began to look the more likely winners.

As the tension mounted, tempers became frayed and Wigan prop Epalahame Lauaki was put on report by referee Richard Silverwood for raising his elbow.

Hodgson levelled the scores for a fourth time with a 67th-minute penalty and, as Wigan continued to incur the wrath of referee Silverwood, the veteran full-back added another from 40 metres out to settle it.

Catalan Dragons v Hull postponed

Cold snap claims Super League meeting between Dragons and Hull in Perpignan

Saturday's Stobart Super League match between Catalan Dragons and Hull in Perpignan has been postponed due to a frozen pitch.

Referee Phil Bentham and match commissioner Gerry Kershaw took the decision, in conjunction with the coaches and chief executives from both clubs, following an inspection of the playing surface at Stade Gilbert Brutus.

'Referee Phil Bentham and match commissioner Gerry Kershaw, with both coaches Trent Robinson and Peter Gentle and both CEOs Christophe Jouffret and Tony Sutton, inspected the pitch and deemed the surface unplayable,' said Catalan spokesman Yannick Rey.

Off: Catalan Dragons will not be able to host Hull at the Stade Gilbert Brutus

Off: Catalan Dragons will not be able to host Hull at the Stade Gilbert Brutus

Eoin Morgan the fall guy in England"s middle order

Struggling Morgan is the fall guy in England's muddled middle order

Eoin Morgan was guaranteed a place in England’s Test team here as soon as he recovered from shoulder surgery because of his wristy expertise against spin. Yet it is his very failings against the type of bowling he treats with disdain in one-day cricket that now threaten his future in the ultimate form of the game.

The misfiring middle order have been virtually the sole reason why England have been so unexpectedly humbled by Pakistan in this series, but it is only Morgan among them who is facing the axe for Friday’s dead rubber back here in Dubai.

Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell have been in equally woeful form, but they can point to outstanding records during England’s rise to the top of the game as evidence that they deserve a longer opportunity to get it right now.

Under pressure: Eoin Morgan (left) and Kevin Pietersen

Under pressure: Eoin Morgan (left) and Kevin Pietersen

Morgan is not so lucky. He may be highly regarded within the England set-up because of an ice-cool temperament, but the jury was still out on his ability to transform his destructive one-day ability to the Test arena even before he fell cheaply to spin four times here.

The Irishman has two centuries in his 15 Tests but only the first one, against Pakistan at Trent Bridge in 2010, hinted that he might be able to make the transition to Test cricket that has proved so difficult for so many good players.

His hundred at Edgbaston last summer came in as comfortable surroundings as Test cricket can offer – after India had been totally crushed by Alastair Cook’s relentless blade – and did little to prove that Morgan should become England’s regular No 6.

It is possible the tourists will stick with the same team for a match they need to win to guarantee retaining their No 1 Test ranking beyond March.

In a spin: Morgan is bowled by Abdur Rehman during England's batting collapse in the second Test

In a spin: Morgan is bowled by Abdur Rehman during England's batting collapse in the second Test

But Morgan looks completely shot and must have been at the forefront of Andy Flower’s mind when England’s team director questioned whether some players here could sort out their techniques and unscramble their brains in time for Friday’s third Test.

The problem has come with Morgan’s uncertainty outside off-stump, a weakness that is largely irrelevant in one-day cricket but which has been all too prevalent here when he has fallen twice to Saeed Ajmal and twice more to Abdur Rehman.

True, Morgan has entered the fray with England deep in peril against Pakistan, but the naive way he fell just before the close of the second day in the first innings in Abu Dhabi, and then played a woeful shot second ball second time round, does not augur well.

Ravi Bopara has every incentive to impress when England return to training on Tuesday.

While Morgan has doubts over his Test future, there are also legitimate concerns about the form and desire of Pietersen.

All at sea: England's batting unit discuss plans

All at sea: England's batting unit discuss plans

The England player who divides opinion more than any other has never looked in such poor form since he made his spectacular entrance to international cricket and will have everything to prove in the final Test and the forth-coming series against Sri Lanka.

The man who switch-hit Muttiah Muralitharan to distraction and dominated Shane Warne in his pomp is looking like a novice against spin here and clearly has a problem against any decent slow left-armer, despite protestations to the contrary.

The bottom line is that a man who is considered confident to the point of arrogance is lacking in self-belief in these conditions.

There is no question that the decision-review system has stymied Pietersen more than most because he simply cannot plant his front foot well forward to negate the possibility of lbw.

However big his stride, Pietersen will be given out if his crooked bat cannot make contact with the ball before it hits his pad.

Out of nick: But Ian Bell is likely to retain his place

Out of nick: But Ian Bell is likely to retain his place

The damning statistics…

Andrew Strauss
Career average: 41.34
Series average: 17

Alastair Cook
Career average: 48.99
Series average: 27.25

Jonathan Trott
Career average: 55.42
Series average: 35.25

Kevin Pietersen
Career average: 49.06
Series average: 4.25

Ian Bell
Career average: 47.76
Series average: 9

Eoin Morgan
Career average: 31.38
Series average: 10.25

Matt Prior
Career average: 44.06
Series average: 31.66

It should be remembered that he hit an emphatic century against India just three Tests ago and hit two double centuries in the 10 Tests before that, so we are hardly talking of career-threatening crisis here. It is just that every failure is amplified with Pietersen and he does not help himself when he tweets ‘oops’ after giving it away.

Flippant comments just give the impression that he is not taking his failures seriously enough, even though it would be harsh to say that Pietersen does not care as much as any other England player.

Bell will not be made the scapegoat now as he was after England’s collapse to 51 all out in Jamaica three years ago but, unlike Pietersen, he struggled against the very best spinners like Warne and Murali and it is difficult to see him working out a way to tame Ajmal any time soon.

How quickly things have changed for England’s all-conquering batsmen. How they react will tell us everything about them.

England v Pakistan: Its been a bright start Martin Samuel

It's a bright start but Ajmal casts a shadow

Well, that was all very nice, but what does it mean Pakistan 256 for seven at the end of day one on what was supposed to be the flattest track in Test cricket; we’ll take that.

A trio of wickets apiece for Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann and an opening batsman dismissed by Monty Panesar on his return; we’ll celebrate that, too. The justified selection of an unconventional two-seamers, two-spinners attack; so far so good.

Pakistan opener Taufeeq Umar admitting the day belonged to the tourists; what’s not to like England had every reason to leave happy as the sun set here on the Sheik Zayed Stadium.

Got him! Mohammad Hafeez is dismissed by England's Monty Panesar

Got him! Mohammad Hafeez is dismissed by England's Monty Panesar

So why were there so many reservations of judgment, so many caveats to the congratulations, so much apprehension about what follows Thursday’s early mop-up job Two words: Saeed Ajmal. For if Swann and Panesar can clear out four batsmen on the first day of a Test, the 10-wicket inspiration for Pakistan’s victory in Dubai last week is capable of even greater acts of destruction.

What happens next will depend overwhelmingly on whether England’s batsmen can conquer their fear of Ajmal: the borderline legal doosra, the straight one that so few picked.

Pakistan look to be heading for a disappointing total in these conditions, but just 353 runs were needed to defeat England by 10 wickets once Ajmal got to work in Dubai, and Pakistan are fewer than 100 away from that total. They have three wickets remaining and captain Misbah-ul-Haq is unbeaten on 83.

He has lasted three hours and 40 minutes already, hit four giant sixes off Panesar — including two back-to-back off the first two balls of the final over — and has two remaining companions, Ajmal and Umar Gul, who have made reasonable tail-end contributions against England.

Gul scored 65 not out at Trent Bridge in 2010, and Ajmal made 50 at Edgbaston on the same tour. It would require only one of the pair to give Misbah some serious first-session company and Pakistan may post more than 300 again. Ajmal with a decent score to bowl at is a very different proposition.

Danger: Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal will cause England problems

Danger: Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal will cause England problems

The surprise of the day was a turning pitch. Nothing too dramatic — Pakistan still felt below par with seven wickets gone — but enough to signify trouble ahead unless the demons of Dubai can be cast out.

Considering the bother England had playing the straighter deliveries in the previous Test, Taufeeq was asked if a turning pitch was actually that much of an advantage for Pakistan. It was akin to trotting out the old fallacy about it being harder to play against 10 men in front of Pep Guardiola of Barcelona.

Just as a great passing team make mincemeat of any opposition with a numerical disadvantage — ‘you pass and pass, and eventually you have one man left where they do not, and you score,’ Gianluca Vialli once told me — so a great spinner on a turning pitch is going to be more dangerous than a great spinner on an ironing board.

When Ajmal saw what Swann and Panesar were getting out of the wicket on day one, his pulse must have raced in anticipation.

‘If the wicket turns more, we have the edge, it becomes a big plus for us,’ said Taufeeq. ‘Misbah is still at the crease so, if we post 300 runs, great. He leads the team from the front and he is always a thinking cricketer, so we shall see.

‘England are in a better position now because, with our score, I would say we should only be five wickets down. So what happens next is important.’

Threat: Captain Misbah-ul-Haq remains at the crease for Pakistan

Threat: Captain Misbah-ul-Haq remains at the crease for Pakistan

England bowled well, in particular Broad who was brave and tireless, dug a few in short, and was worth figures of three for 47, the pick of their bowlers. Yet the ball was not the problem in Dubai. After the second day, many thought England had bowled their way back into the Test, only to be let down again by the batsmen.

The bowlers were certainly on top in Abu Dhabi, persistent in testing conditions, whole-hearted and dogged in the way they dismissed a succession of Pakistan batsmen who had played their way in, ominously.
Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq made scores of 24 or over when they were removed, and had any of that number stayed with Misbah, England could have been looking at a different challenge.

Then again, had England’s fielders not spilled some vital chances — none more so than James Anderson’s poor reaction to a gift from Misbah, offered when the captain had scored 30 — the batsmen could have been in already.

So now we wait. It is to be hoped not too long. These could be the defining sessions in this Test and, therefore, in this series, too. It will be a rocky road back for England if they fail to handle Ajmal a third time.

To lose in straight Tests in the first series as the world’s No 1 side would be a humiliating slap in the face. On Wednesday, England lived up to that marquee pre-series billing; but the biggest challenge is yet to come.