Among the outstanding aspects of England's stupendous rise has been meticulous planning. The "i" has not been written that has gone undotted, the "t" never imagined without a cross, the opponents' weaknesses in any conceivable position rarely calculated to fewer than three decimal places.
It is probably fair to surmise that not everything went according to schedule in the early part of the second day of the touring team's match against the ICC Associate and Affiliate Combined here in Dubai. In reply to the opposition total of 281, England made 185 for 8 declared, having lost six wickets for 52 in the afternoon session.
Whichever way you slice it, that was not how proceedings were intended to unfold. This being England, they can still win their opening warm-up match and probably will. By the close their opponents' second innings had been reduced to 90 for 5, a lead of 186.
Only one man, Alastair Cook, the run machine himself, prospered for England. He made a characteristic 76, full of crisply timed flicks, pulls and back- foot punches, which brought him most of his 14 fours. Cook was married a few days before this trip; his powers appear to remain undiminished.
"It wasn't ideal and I think you have to put that down to rustiness," said Cook. "I was lucky with a couple of play-and-misses early on which some of the other lads nicked," said Cook. "It is important to spend that time in the middle because, no matter how many nets you have, the rhythm and tempo of subcontintental cricket does take a while to get used to.
"It is strange to come from such an amazing event to get down to some grafting and hard work and it does take a bit of getting used to. Thirty-six hours hardly constitutes a honeymoon but my wife knew she was marrying into the life of a cricketer and she's a good girl."
At the start of the day, England will have been keen to bat for as long as they dared, giving their batsmen precious time at the crease, take a stranglehold on the match and hope the pitch might wear sufficiently to give them a chance of winning. They might have declared, but not in quite such impecunious circumstances.
As it is, their batting, so formidable in so many circumstances of late, was as rusty as a six-inch nail left out in the rain for a year rather than simply having the bat in the loft for two months. Enthusiastically and accurately though the invitation side bowled – not least the Irish England Lion Boyd Rankin – on a pitch that had grown no more or less capricious than its relatively anodyne state of the first day, they were given abundant help by the batsmen.
Barely a wicket was truly earned by the bowling alone, either through building pressure or a spark of inspiration. The rewards, if not undeserved, came their way because of lapses of concentration, method or both.
To this catalogue of minor disaster, Cook was a distinguished exception, though even he perished to a leg-side flick. He was among the four victims of the dynamic and portly Afghanistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad, who would adorn any match in which he appears.
There was an early sign of what might befall England in the morning session. After an orthodox start while they negotiated the new ball, Andrew Strauss, the captain, and Cook, his deputy, seemed to have bedded in.
Strauss was then caught off a pull to short midwicket and shortly after Jonathan Trott, barely before he could start excavating the crease for hidden treasure, was aghast to be caught behind down the leg side. Both fell to the wholehearted and talented Afghan fast-medium bowler Hamid Hassan in a searching spell of nine overs.
Not long after he had come out of the attack, Hassan forlornly chased the pushed off-drive for four which brought Cook his 50, and tumbled over the picket fence lining the boundary. He will play no further in the match.
The period after lunch changed the planned course of the innings. Pietersen, shaping to drive, was beautifully caught by Shahzad darting to his left; Ian Bell wafted a touch casually outside off and was also held behind. Eoin Morgan quickly followed, pushing forward to the off-spinner Mohammad Nabi, the third Afghan in the invitation XI, and edging low to slip, where the Irishman Paul Stirling pouched the chance. When Cook went that was England's vaunted top six all accounted for.
No worries yet but England will have to learn quickly that long innings need to be played on these pitches without getting quick value for money. Some much-needed lusty blows followed as England lost two more wickets. They called it a day five minutes before tea and immediately made inroads into their opponents' batting for the second time in the match.
New-ball wickets will be vital to both sides in the Test series against Pakistan which begins next week and in that regard England have fulfilled their obligations in this match. William Porterfield, having scored one on the first day, did marginally worse this time, another victim caught behind to a leg-side flick and his fellow opener Stirling went in the second over, leg before to Stuart Broad.
Some circumspection naturally followed but England kept plugging away and prised themselves into a position where they might push for victory. They are using the match not simply for practice but for preparation. They are different things.
ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI v England
ICC Global Cricket Academy (First and second days of three): ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI lead England by 186 runs with five second-innings wickets in hand
England won toss
ICC COMBINED ASSOCIATE AND AFFILIATE XI First Innings
*W T S Porterfield c Davies b Broad 1
P R Stirling b Broad 7
12 balls 1 four
K J Coetzer c Davies b Broad 1
Saqib Ali c Swann b Finn 14
45 balls 3 fours
C G Williams c Davies b Swann 34
51 balls 1 six 6 fours
†Mohammad Shahzad c Broad b Anderson 51
58 balls 1 six 6 fours
Mohammad Nabi b Swann 0
C Viljoen c Anderson b Broad 98
189 balls 1 six 13 fours
R M Haq lbw b Finn 26
49 balls 3 fours
W B Rankin c Finn b Anderson 43
76 balls 3 fours
Hamid Hassan not out 0
Extras (lb2 w1 nb3) 6
Total (83.3 overs) 281
Fall: 1-1, 2-10, 3-11, 4-52, 5-82, 6-90, 7-122, 8-181, 9-277.
Bowling: J M Anderson 19-6-48-2, S C J Broad 16.3-6-46-4, S T Finn 17-3-60-2, G P Swann 23-0-95-2, I J L Trott 2-0-6-0, K P Pietersen 6-0-23-0.
ENGLAND First Innings
*A J Strauss c Haq b Hassan 17
44 balls 3 fours
A N Cook c Shahzad b Viljoen 76
121 balls 14 fours
I J L Trott c Shahzad b Hassan 1
K P Pietersen c Shahzad b Rankin 15
44 balls 3 fours
I R Bell c Shahzad b Rankin 3
E J G Morgan c Stirling b Nabi 1
†S M Davies lbw b Haq 12
32 balls 2 fours
S C J Broad c Porterfield b Nabi 19
15 balls 4 fours
G P Swann not out 14
22 balls 1 six 2 fours
J M Anderson not out 12
18 balls 2 fours
Extras (b8 lb4 w1 nb2) 15
Total (for 8 dec, 55 overs) 185
Fall: 1-44, 2-54, 3-107, 4-121, 5-126, 6-132, 7-159, 8-159.
Did not nat: S T Finn.
Bowling: Hamid Hassan 11-4-26-2, C Viljoen 11-1-42-1, Mohammad Nabi 14-3-42-2, W B Rankin 16-3-49-2, R M Haq 3-1-14-1.
ICC COMBINED ASSOCIATE AND AFFILIATE XI Second Innings
*W T S Porterfield c Davies b Anderson 0
P R Stirling lbw b Broad 0
K J Coetzer b Anderson 31
71 balls 6 fours
Saqib Ali c Davies b Broad 2
C G Williams c Bell b Swann 11
27 balls 1 four
†Mohammad Shahzad not out 34
59 balls 6 fours
Mohammad Nabi not out 9
33 balls 1 four
Extras (lb1 nb2) 3
Total (for 5, 37 overs) 90
Fall: 0-1, 2-2, 3-8, 4-31, 5-71.
To bat: W B Rankin, R M Haq, C Viljoen, G H Dockrell.
Bowling: J M Anderson 12-6-29-2, S C J Broad 9-5-15-2, G P Swann 10-1-33-1, S T Finn 6-3-12-0.
Umpires: B B Pradhan (Nep) and Zameer Haider (Pak) .Reuse content