England go from champs to chumps in three days


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The Independent Online

With all due respect to the world's No 1 Test team, England's batsmen were utterly hopeless yesterday as Pakistan cruised to a 10-wicket win in the First Test with embarrassing ease and two days to spare.

The sequence of poor shot selection was breathtaking, the manner in which they let the Pakistan bowlers expose their methods astonishing. The failure to cope with their opponents' spinners, or eventually their leading fast bowler, Umar Gul, was inexplicable.

The lack of application in both innings on a pitch that demanded it was an abrogation of professional duty. England were well aware that this series in unfamiliar surroundings would make demands on their concentration, but they flopped.

In the litany of disaster after England bowled out Pakistan for 338 – after they added 50 yesterday morning – it is difficult to single out any one of the vaunted top six for particular blame. Almost all of them were careless, slipshod or incompetent.

However, Kevin Pietersen's top-edged hook shot against a short ball from Gul, the eighth he faced, would be high on the charge sheet. To be out like that on this pitch with the side up against it at 25 for 2, and before he had scored, defied reason. As he strode off Pietersen knew it.

England had needed 146 to make Pakistan bat again when they started their second innings. Trouble loomed early when their captain, Andrew Strauss, went to a contentious catch behind. Given out by umpire Billy Bowden for a faint touch down the leg side against Gul, Strauss asked for a review. The replays showed that maybe he did and maybe he didn't but in cases where it is inconclusive the umpire's decision has to be upheld. In fairness to Strauss, he probably did not hit it – but he might have left well alone.

Alastair Cook, the form man before this match, seemed to learn precisely nothing. There was to be no review after he helped round another short ball from Gul to Adnan Akmal.

For reasons unknown, England have been prey to so-called leg-side strangles from the start of this tour. They are throttling themselves. Pietersen's gross error of judgement was followed by another by Ian Bell: for the second time in three days, the man who would be the world's No 1 batsman was fooled by Saeed Ajmal's doosra, playing down Bakerloo when the ball was headed for Jubilee. His review request was daft.

Jonathan Trott and Eoin Morgan then played with some style, freedom and determination – but to no avail. The number of batsmen brought down by balls that have not turned in this match is worrying. When it starts to turn, England could be in real bother.

Graeme Swann was the last man out, poking Ajmal to cover. It was the off spinner's 10th wicket, making him the third Pakistan bowler to take 10 wickets against England in a Test. Swann made 39, exactly the number of runs that Strauss, Cook, Pietersen and Bell made together in both innings.