Two months later... and the Ashes seem a long time ago

Seventy-four days ago England reclaimed the Ashes. When they were 20 for 4 in the heat of the afternoon sun yesterday with three of their top four batsmen having failed to score a run and one of the world's great speed merchants bowling like the wind, it seemed like another lifetime.

Through a combination of application, bloody-mindedness, time-wasting, a pitch still holding its own, the fact that Shoaib Akhtar got tired and bad light, they earned the draw they sought to keep the three-match series alive. But Pakistan are dormie one, and England are in serious danger of losing their first series in seven and only their fifth in the last 24. Two of those defeats were against Australia (remember those days when England used to lose to Australia). The others have been on the sub-continent, to India and Sri Lanka on their most recent visits. Only Bangladesh have been dealt with.

They have not become a poor team overnight - nor even in 74 days - but the state of play here, alongside those previous results this decade, merely reflects the difficulties of winning in these parts.

It is what makes England's failure to chase 198 to win in Multan a week ago so culpable. If the pitches are not dead, they need to have the life either beaten (as Shoaib did in such exemplary style briefly yesterday) or wheedled out of them. That is more difficult in extreme temperatures and alien conditions.

Nobody should write off England, given the holes from which they have dug themselves in the past three years, but nobody should be writing them up too much either, given their record in the subcontinent. For one player especially, this series and this match will be both memorable and forgettable.

When Pakistan were 241 for 8 and Inzamam-ul-Haq was 79, England had the faintest sniff of winning to level the series. Inzamam, hitting in the air to mid-wicket, was dropped by on the boundary by Andrew Strauss, as straightforward a chance as they come.

Strauss made such a mess of it that he could have been having a baby at the same time. And there was the point. It is not Strauss who is giving birth but his wife, Ruth. Their first child is due on Monday and Strauss is flying home today to be there.

It was always his intention to leave the tour and he should be wished well. But his performances and departure raise once again the issue of paternity leave for professional sportsmen. It is a legitimate topic considering both the huge amount of money they earn in a peculiar job, and the fact that they put their positions in jeopardy more than other workers by spending voluntary time away.

Strauss has scored 44 runs in four innings in the Tests, reducing his average from above 50 to 46. In addition to the horrendous Inzamam drop yesterday he put down an elementary chance close to the wicket late in Pakistan's first innings when Shoaib Akhtar prodded at Ashley Giles' spin. Players make mistakes and Strauss has made fewer than most in a glittering start to an international career which has already yielded him seven hundreds. He was bound to have a bad run and when he was having his golden run all the pundits made that point.

It may be that this great occurrence in his life is not connected to his form. But nobody expected Strauss to make a run yesterday before he went to the crease (though it is true some were expected from the others). Of course, Strauss should be going home, the question is worth asking whether he should have come. Since there is no definitive answer it will continue to be asked.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas