England pay for lapses in 2-0 defeat

06 November 2015

England players look on as Pakistan receive the trophy // Getty Images

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The scoreline may have flattered Pakistan, but life on the road will not get any easier for England

About the Writer:

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

For England, at least the scoreline wasn’t 5-0.

To be fair that would have been some effort in a three-Test series, but the point is this wasn’t the worst overseas tour in recent memory.

There’s no doubt the 127-run defeat suffered by Alastair Cook’s side in Sharjah stung.

A 2-0 series scoreline perhaps flattered Pakistan, who were fortunate to escape from the first Test with a draw thanks to the fading Abu Dhabi light.

The difference, though, was that Pakistan were not made to pay for their only horror session of this series back then.

England had two shockers, firstly on the third morning in Dubai when they lost their final seven first-innings wickets for 30, and then on the final morning in Sharjah when four fell for 11 runs in 31 balls.

Australia know that feeling well. They dominated both London Tests during the last northern summer so comprehensively that there was no doubt they were, on balance, the superior side during the Ashes. Yet three horror sessions in Cardiff, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge ultimately cost them the series. 

England, of course, prepared green tops in the last two of those Tests to play to their undoubted strengths. That was their privilege as hosts and that’s the reason so few teams win Test series away from home now.

Pakistan could not have prepared a track more advantageous to their spin bowlers than they did here in Sharjah.

It meant England’s fate was effectively sealed after they lost the toss on the first morning. But throw a Graeme Swann or a Monty Panesar into their team and they might have won this game.

We covered the ineptitude of England’s current spinners on this site yesterday and Alastair Cook was man enough to admit in the aftermath of defeat here that England do not possess any world class slow bowlers right now.

How times have changed. Back in 2013 England ‘doctored’ their pitches to play to the strengths of Swann. A joyless 3-0 Ashes series victory was capped by England’s players urinating on the Oval pitch at the end of the series.

The tables were turned months later when Mitchell Johnson bowled pure heat on fast tracks in Australia to crush England’s spirit. The 5-0 scoreline in that series was almost not one-sided enough so bad were England.

Again this comes back to how hard it is to win away from home. Earlier in 2013, Australia had been whitewashed 4-0 in India. England had won there two years previously – their first Test series victory in the country for 27 years – but that was only down to the brilliance of Swann and Monty Panesar with the ball and Cook and Kevin Pietersen with the bat. Those kinds of results don’t happen regularly. It takes an extraordinary team effort.

Australia, too, struggled in the UAE last year, losing a two-match series 2-0, when spinner Nathan Lyon took just three wickets at 140.

What hope did Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid have when a superior bowler in Lyon had tanked so badly a year before?

At least things get easier for England now. Their next tour is against the world’s No.1 team in South Africa. Whatever happens in that four-Test series, at least they can’t lose 5-0.

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