Fragile batting works both ways
England and Pakistan both go into the decisive final npower Test convinced their opponents will collapse at Lord’s.
In a series beset by cloud cover and seamers’ pitches, each team has shown a remarkable propensity to lose wickets in a hurry in madcap passages of play.
Pakistan’s frailties have been the most costly because they have tended to come earlier in innings which folded for 80 and then 72 in defeats at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston.
Yet England have also matched that, losing a remarkable six for 17 in Nottingham and five for eight in Birmingham.
It was only after another six went down for 59 and then seven for 28 second time round in easier conditions in last week’s unexpected defeat at the Brit Insurance Oval, however, that England team director Andy Flower conceded the blips are a concern.
It was less than surprising therefore today that the pre-match posturing for the fourth Test, which will begin with England leading the series 2-1, contained pointed remarks from each camp about the other’s brittle batting.
Steven Finn, for England, and Umar Amin, for Pakistan, were the protagonists.
The fast bowler took guard first, saying: “We’ve bowled Pakistan out for 72 and 80 so far, so there’s a batting collapse waiting to happen.
“They have had two innings where they have played well and put partnerships together, but at no stage have they got away from us. Their top score is just over 300.”
Amin was dropped to accommodate Mohammad Yousuf at the Oval and is unlikely to regain his middle-order place after the returning veteran and Azhar Ali helped the tourists battle back into the series.
Finn, meanwhile, is convinced the simple addition of Yousuf’s world-class talent will not mend Pakistan’s fragility on its own.
“Them having Yousuf in the team doesn’t make them a different team at all,” he said.
Amin may not get the chance to let his bat do the talking on a surface which always favours runs over wickets, but he was not slow to take his cue with the microphone.
“England were 2-0 up going to the Oval, but suddenly after the way they were beaten there, they must be on the back foot,” he said.
“You’re always in the game against them. Even if they get a partnership going, you never give up.
“You’re never out of it because they can collapse at any time. We just want a repeat of the Oval. We proved there we are a better side.”
Finn, meanwhile, blames himself in part for allowing Yousuf and Azhar to help their team top 300 - and is determined to put things right on his home ground.
“There were areas where I didn’t bowl as well as I could have done, and that might have contributed towards us losing the game,” he said.
“That’s something I’m very aware of, and in the grand scheme of things you learn a lot from having lost that Test.
“At times I felt I leaked too many ‘four’ balls . I’d bowl five decent balls than one ‘four’ ball, which was very frustrating.
“When Yousuf and Azhar were going well, we could have done with me drying it up a little bit. But that’s cricket. You learn every time you step out on the pitch.”
Finn finished with nine wickets in the match on his home debut when England beat Bangladesh here earlier this summer, and he is optimistic of adding a few more against Pakistan.
“There is potential if the rain and murk stays around,” he continued. “It might nip around a little bit, like it did in the Bangladesh Test.
“I was gutted (at the Oval). I hate losing games of cricket. Every game that I play in and lose - whether it’s a club side, Middlesex or England - is a period of reflection.
“We’ve identified the areas where we could do better, and hope to do better in this game.”