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Gritty Pak give England plenty to think about

January 20, 2012

Andrew Strauss's brigade need a much more intensified effort to prove that they are good enough to perform in all conditions and on any surface.— Reuters

Cricket it is said is a mind sport but the way things change during the course of a tense game it is, at times, even mindblowing.

Who would have thought before the ongoing series that the top-ranked England would suffer the humiliation of a ten-wicket defeat and that too within three days of the first Test! But, as we all know, this is now a reality.

The fall from grace in fact does not take too long. Only last summer England had inflicted a massive 4-0 defeat to India to get to the top amongst the Testplaying nations. This certainly would have given them enough confidence to keep their rating intact, at least for some time.

But their first Test defeat in their last ten Tests, after losing the Ashes game inPerth in December 2010, must have left the English camp with a bitter taste, and the thought that one swallow does not make a summer.

To be acknowledged as one of the top teams around, Andrew Strauss's brigade need a much more intensified effort to prove that they are good enough to perform in all conditions and on any surface.

With Pakistan bowlers keeping them in tangles throughout this Test to bring them down to their knees, England now cannot afford to take Pakistan lightly. In fact, Pakistan's impressive outing in the series opener made them look more like a top team than England.

Misbah-ul-Haq's men seem to have a different body language which obviously shows up by the way they batted, fielded or bowled here in Dubai a transforma-tion which we all waited to see for some time during the last few years.

Credit needs to be given the way Misbah handled the team with a calm assurance and in a dignified manner which no doubt rubs on others and which brings required results.

Pakistan's winning streak recentlyowes much to him, the coaches and the management who have been looking after the team. Without that a performance like in the opening Test here may not have been possible.

What pleased me more is the fact that Pakistan on the third morning continued to frustrate the English bowlers byextending their innings for just over an hour to add fifty more runs to their already 96-run lead.

Adnan Akmal though small in size was tall enough to stick around and dominate the proceedings to craft a gutsy 61run knock which provide a substantial first-innings lead of 146 that made England struggle for the second time in the game.

Jonathan Trott (49) and Graeme Swann (39) in the end did try but Umar Gul, Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal sharing the wickets turned out to be more than a handful as wickets tumbled and defeat started to stare in the English faces.

Consistently pounding the batsmen with a mixture of short and full length deliveries, Gul looked a lot moreaggressive than he was in the first innings to reap a well-deserved fourwicket haul.

Rehman is not a mean bowler at all.

His three wickets gave the break that was desperately required and Saeed, like he did in the first innings and with a bit more turn off the track, kept the batsmen guessing to grab three more scalps, and thus claiming his second ten-wicket show in Tests.

If not for a cameo innings by Swann an innings defeat certainly would have been the ultimate before they went past Pakistan to make them bat again.

The formality of reaching the target took only 3.4 overs for Pakistan to take a cherished 1-0 lead in the series before they face England again in the second Test at Abu Dhabi.