At this stage of any cricket tour, all anybody wants to do is go home. Of nobody is this truer in the United Arab Emirates at present than the "home" side. Pakistan have been away for too long and it is beginning to show.
Mohsin Khan, their coach, said yesterday: "Every home series is an away series, and they have been away for a long time. I don't think you can take homesickness away. If you stay in a palace but your home is a two-bedroom house your home is always your home."
There are eight days to go and every one of them may seem like a month for Pakistan. This may not be least because in terms of matches the tour is only just half over. With six games gone – three Test matches and three one-day internationals – there are still four still left – the last ODI and three Twenty20s.
England have turned things round with gusto, belatedly adapting to the conditions. Had the schedule been turned round they might well have been much more competitive in the Test matches, behaving much more like the world's No 1 side than a bunch of bozos.
As it is, they find themselves 3-0 ahead in the one-day series with a whitewash in view today at the Dubai ICS, to be witnessed doubtless by another barely discernible crowd. Word is that everybody hereabouts is saving themselves for the T20s on Thursday and Saturday. Seeing will be believing, but if so it will be another notch on the escutcheon of the shortest form of the game on its way to global domination.
England's self-esteem, which was dealt a mighty blow after the shock of the Test series, is intact again. They have played much the smarter cricket in the three 50-over matches so far and made a nonsense of Pakistan's six successive series wins. True, you can only beat what is put in front of you and in front of Pakistan before this were the likes of Ireland, Afghanistan, West Indies and Bangladesh. Maybe it was easy to flatter to deceive.
"I don't want to take anything away from England, who have played tremendous cricket," said Mohsin. "But we should have played better cricket. Whereas England have saved between 20 and 25 runs in the field an innings we have given 20 to 25 away. That's 40 runs or so and a big difference."
It has gone even beyond that. England, having been drubbed in India last October and then unexpectedly steamrollered by Pakistan in the Tests, had to do something. Somehow, they had to come to terms with the sort of low, slow, turning pitches they were being confronted with. And they have, as the middle-order batsman Eoin Morgan confirmed.
"Our principles have changed," said Morgan. "We've gone from being a small bit positive and reckless, from not knowing where we were, to being a bit more solid and experienced and getting runs behind us and taking wickets up front. So that's where our principles lie. In our last summer we came a long way. But the stint we did in India – when I wasn't there – pegged us back a long way. So we're starting from scratch in terms of playing in this part of the world. We've got off to a fantastic start.
"But it comes back to a case of not getting carried away with where we are or where we want to be. Where we are is No 6 [one-day side] in the world, where we want to be is No 1 in the world by the World Cup in 2015."
Morgan could do with some runs after an indifferent tour, although two unbeaten recent vignettes should have perked him up. He is still catching the eye with an increasingly bizarre crouching stance, in which his bottom virtually touches the ground.
"It's something I'm definitely aware of and trying to counter," he said. "It has developed over the last year. It was the most extreme during last summer but something I'm working on and sticking with and trying to manipulate so my balance stays the same."
This series will have little direct effect on the 2015 World Cup, being played in Australia. It will have been long forgotten by then, even if it ends in a whitewash. But England may take the opportunity today to field some players they think may play a part three years' hence.
It is always difficult to get the balance right between trying to win the match at hand and offer new players a chance. England will want the clean sweep but, with the series in the bag, they will never be in a better position to rest some players and include others.
Jos Buttler and Danny Briggs could make their debuts, Tim Bresnan and Jade Dernbach may be recalled. On the other hand, caution may prevail. But it is not the time to be cautious.
Final One Day International, Dubai
A N Cook (capt), K P Pietersen, E J G Morgan, R S Bopara, C Kieswetter, JC Buttler, S R Patel, T T Bresnan, J Dernbach, D R Briggs, S T Finn.
Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Adnan Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema
H D P K Dharmasena (S Lanka), S J A Taufel (Aus), Zameer Haider (Pak).
J J Crowe (NZ).
Slow, possibly tired, dry and needing patience again.Reuse content