England’s second innings batting card looks a bit binary code, but the truth is they weren’t qualified for this job.
The batsman v bowler duel generally favours the batsman, but the balance can shift towards the bowler due to the pitch, the weather and the match situation. In Abu Dhabi, it seemed to reach a tipping point.
Most of us would agree that it reached that tipping point a little too soon, but it’s not that England had a bad innings; it’s that a fourth innings trial by spin is as alien to their batsmen as Alf.
A major deficiency
There are many different ways of winning Test matches, but setting up a fourth innings spin assault is one of the classic tactics. If your batsmen can’t counter that situation, that’s not so much a chink in your armour as a missing breastplate.
Many people will want to replace one or two of England’s batsmen. That may or may not help, but it won’t resolve the problem. England simply don’t have anyone who can deal with fourth innings spin at the minute – that’s the truth of the matter.
Good spin bowling
England’s best batsmen haven’t deteriorated, they just haven’t encountered good spin bowling in relatively favourable conditions for quite some time.
Pakistan’s spin bowlers aren’t so good that they can rip through sides regardless of the conditions; they’re more like England’s pace attack. They’re disciplined and they make the most of anything that’s in their favour.
England were bowled out for 72 in Abu Dhabi and there were all sorts of decisions which could have gone the opposite way. But it wouldn’t have made a difference and that’s very much the point.
A couple of dismissals might have been given not out on another day, while a couple of not out decisions could easily have been given. The point is that the appeals were coming thick and fast and even allowing for the excitability of Adnan Akmal (who appeals even when there’s a successful forward defensive), they were frequent enough that it was only ever a matter of time.
It was exceptional, remorseless spin bowling against batsmen who had stolen and memorised the answers to a completely different exam. Pakistan were by far the better side.