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.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice