Upbeat England aim to bounce back
England are determined to remain united on and off the field as they try to muster a match-winning performance and avoid a 3-0 Test series whitewash in Dubai.
It was abundantly clear in both defeats against Pakistan over the past two weeks that England’s bowlers performed admirably, while their batsmen failed to fire in the most part.
But they know there is nothing to be gained by ‘us and them’ divisions and James Anderson made it clear today that England win and lose as a team.
“At the end of the day we lost the game and it reflects on the whole team,” said Anderson, who helped England bowl their ‘hosts’ out twice to no avail in Abu Dhabi last week.
“We don’t think of it as batters against bowlers.
“We’re an open and honest group and the guys have been open and honest these last couple of days. All we’re concentrating on now is Friday.
“The mood is still pretty good considering the position we’re in. We’re just really concentrating on how we’re going to win this game starting on Friday.”
Pre-series predictions of attritional cricket, and a struggle to take 20 wickets for both teams, have not come to pass.
Pakistan, in particular, have enjoyed success against England’s batting order with spin and seam thanks principally to Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Umar Gul.
However, Anderson is not about to forget in a hurry the occasions during England’s rise to the top of the International Cricket Council Test rankings when it was the batsmen who provided the foundation for the bowlers to attack.
“There will be days when the bowlers won’t get the wickets and the opposition get 600 and we’re out in the field for two days,” Anderson said. “The batsmen won’t be happy with us then.
“It’s swings and roundabouts and we have every faith in our batsmen that they will come out strong in the next Test.”
After his side were bowled out for just 72 to lose inside four days at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, England coach Andy Flower stated that he and captain Andrew Strauss will not be afraid to drop a batsman if necessary for the final Test.
The batsmen, though, have spent much of their time since the last defeat trying to work out among themselves where they have been going wrong.
“That’s something that the batsmen have been discussing,” Anderson added. “But they have been fantastic for us over the last two years.
“A lot’s been made of two bad games. But the whole team has confidence in our batting unit and they’ve been working really hard to correct things that have gone wrong.”
As for his own brief, Anderson has contributed five wickets in four innings, a fair reward for his toil in conditions which have largely favoured spin.
“Our job is to get 20 wickets in any Test match,” he added. “We thought it might be a difficult job for us out here, but we’ve probably exceeded our expectations in that department.
“We’re pretty pleased with the way things have gone (as bowlers). But we’re not going to take our eye off the ball and will keep trying to improve on Friday.”
Before then England must hope Ian Bell recovers from the stomach upset which kept him away from practice today.
It is expected he will do so if his ailment is the same which briefly troubled Jonathan Trott and Ravi Bopara during the second Test.
Anderson, meanwhile, spelled out England’s chief objectives this week and beyond.
They urgently need a victory to ensure they retain that number one Test spot when the ICC hand out the prize money at the annual cut-off date on April 1.
More importantly still, England must satisfy themselves that they can play to their potential in these conditions, with two more Asian Test tours on the schedule this year.
“There are a few important issues for us that we’ve got to come across in the next Test,” Anderson added.
“The biggest thing for us is that we’ve got another two tours in the sub-continent. So to perform well out here is a big thing for us.
“We also have a one-day series coming up, so to take a bit of momentum into that would be useful.
“We want to stay number one in the world as well, and losing Test matches isn’t going to help us achieve that.
“We’ve got to try to win every Test match we possibly can.”