Last year, Pakistan managed first innings scores in Abu Dhabi of 570-6 and 566-3 against Australia and then New Zealand. It’s not like England did especially badly in conceding 523-8. Pakistan are just good.
Not that it’s impossible to take wickets there though. Those two teams’ responses were 261 and 262 respectively, with wickets evenly shared between the Pakistan bowlers on each occasion. You can certainly bowl teams out and if anything, this emphasises that the dropped catches and wickets taken off no-balls weren’t really any more costly than all of those chances England didn’t create in the first place.
We wonder how much the England team and British media have talked the players into a trap. When you take such great pains to emphasise that you can’t afford to drop a single chance in the UAE, how does a team feel when exactly that happens? Defeated? Like they’re losing already? And what impact does that have on their play from then on?
It’s similar to the ‘we’ll have to be at our absolute best to beat them’ line of thinking. Being positive is one thing, but setting unrealistically high standards that you can never hope to meet is rather different. Doing the latter only serves to elevate the task in front of you to something that’s seemingly impossible.
All of which isn’t to say that it would harm England’s cause any to take those cymbals back off Ian Bell and return his hands to him in their stead.