No signs that batsmen know how to turn tide


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The Independent Online

By Stephen Brenkley

cricket correspondent


There were no excuses. It is not Andrew Strauss's way. But there were no explanations either. Perhaps it was too soon after such a cataclysmic defeat to offer any that sounded remotely plausible. England had lost by 72 runs a Test they should have won – and with it the series – against Pakistan.

They are 2-0 down with one to play and it would be foolhardy to be confident of the arrears of being reduced in the Third Test starting on Friday. In three innings in this series England's totals have been 72, 192 and 160, in the fourth when it seemed they might achieve redemption it was 327. It has been as inadequate as it has been surprising. Nobody expected this, least of all the men doing the failing.

"We all know that," said Strauss immediately after his seventh Test defeat as England's captain. "We're not going to run away from that, it is disappointing. Individually we've not been clear enough in our gameplans against spin and in our methods of where our scoring areas are. We've allowed pressure to build.

"Each time a wicket falls it makes it harder for the next guy, so as a batting unit we must hold our hands up and say we haven't done well enough. It is pretty clear, there are no excuses. We need to be better than that."

He could not have been clearer in his admission of failure. England have for too long been found wanting against subcontinental opposition away from home. Of the past 19 Test matches, they have won only one and lost nine.

Despite regular protestations that they can and will do better, they have made no discernible progress. In the two matches of this three-match series, Eoin Morgan has made 41 runs, Ian Bell has made 36 and Kevin Pietersen 17. For batsmen with their reputations in the best team in the world, it is far beyond being not good enough.

It seems the stranger as England's coach, Andy Flower, was a highly accomplished player of spin bowling and their batting coach, Graham Gooch, masterful at building innings against anything conveyed in his direction. Gooch went home on the eve of this match. Perhaps he should have stayed, but his absence was not the reason they lost.

"As I said at the start of this tour, this is the final frontier – the subcontinent," said Strauss. "England teams haven't done very well out here in the past. And we came in and approached things pretty positively.

"We felt like we had a great chance to win this series but I think the fact we got rolled over twice in Dubai meant there was some baggage there going into this final innings. Test cricket is hard and it exposes any vulnerability or weaknesses you have."

Under Strauss, England have had a wonderful three years. His tenure started dreadfully when they were bowled out for 51 by West Indies in Jamaica in January 2009 but slowly, inexorably, he and Flower shaped a side to become No 1 in the world. It is a title they still hold, though South Africa, if they beat New Zealand 3-0 in March, could usurp them. England could lose $175,000 (£111,000) at the cut-off point of1 April, but the loss of the money won't count as much as the blow to their dreams and aspirations.

England have two more away Test series against subcontinental opposition this year. A weak Sri Lanka await in the spring and a battered India in the autumn. Nobody would give England a prayer on their present form.

"I think in these conditions in these parts of the world if you get runs early in the tour it makes life a lot easier for you," said Strauss. "There is no substitute for time in the middle. We are all picked to go out there and score runs and we haven't done that as well as we should have done."

England have still lost only two series under the Strauss-Flower partnership, starting in West Indies, when they lost their first match after being bowled out for that 51 in Kingston. "Jamaica was a very different set of circumstances," said Strauss. "I'd struggle to think of a result, or a loss, that's hurt more than this."