England, holders of the Ashes, the team who vanquished mighty Australia only nine weeks ago, were beaten yesterday in their first outing since. On a largely blameless fifth-day pitch, showing minimal sign of wear, they failed to chase a paltry 198 to win the First Test against Pakistan.
If it was horse racing, the stewards would have been called in. In the event there was little that the stand-in captain Marcus Tresothick could say.
"I thought we would knock them off pretty comfortably with a bit of struggle against a leg-spinner on the fifth day," he said. "They bowled pretty well on a wicket turning a bit and we needed a bit of application. If we'd occupied a bit more time at the crease, batted a session if you like, the runs would have come."
After a rattling start in which 40 runs came in 10 overs and victory seemed a formality, England subsided. There was only one substantial stand thereafter, between Geraint Jones and Shaun Udal, who put on 49 for the eighth wicket and reinvigorated England.
"They took their time, played it round a little bit and the score was coming down pretty quick," Trescothick said. "Nothing will change dramatically for the next game. We will prepare as for every other Test, which has stood us in good stead for two years."
Trescothick also defended the aggressive batting methods of Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen, both of whom played shots they will seek to conceal from their grandchildren. "The way they play is the reason they have become the players they are." Presumably Trescothick wants them to play attacking strokes with application.
It became clear that the threat of Danish Kaneria's leg breaks, while not quite Warnesque, is potent. He bowls a googly for a start, which has not been in Shane Warne's repertoire for a while. The one that hit Udal's middle stump was a beauty. "He's got more deliveries than Warne, we'll have to see about getting leg -spinners in the nets," said Trescothick.
The Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-haq has feline grace when batting and he complemented this yesterday by looking like the cat who got the cream. "England played better than us for four days, but we bowled well on the fifth and God was with us," he said.
Bob Woolmer, Pakistan's English coach, praised his bowlers, especially Kaneria and most enthusiastically the maverick fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar. "Danish was fantastic," he said. "He's still young and has time to develop even more."
But it was Shoaib, one of the most thrilling sights in world cricket on his day, for whom Woolmer reserved singular praise.
"He has been a model of behaviour and maybe it proves a dog's tail can straighten. This will be fantastic for Pakistan."
Woolmer's words may surprise Shoaib's most recent teams, Worcestershire and the Rest of the World where his prima donna approach did not win him many admirers. "When he came back he said to me, 'I've changed, this is a new chapter in my book'." If so, it may contain a story England have no desire to read.
* England's fast bowler Matthew Hoggard and Inzamam were fined 20 per cent of their match fees for breaching the ICC code of conduct. Hoggard was reported for excessive appealingwhile Inzamam was punished for his team's slow over rate.Reuse content