Ajmal steals the show
Posted in England v Pakistan (in UAE) 2012
Ahead of today’s opening exchanges in Dubai, much of the talk had centred around Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, and his promise to unleash a new mystery delivery on England.
So much was made of Ajmal’s newest weapon - the ‘teesra’ - that England batting coach Graham Gooch moved to play down talk of its potential effectiveness after day one of the tourists’ second warm-up match against a Pakistan Cricket Board XI.
“Just remember, you don’t play the bowler and what he says; you play the ball that comes out of his hand,” explained Gooch, while also acknowledging the challenge of facing the leading Test wicket-taker of 2011.
“It’s all a little bit smoke and mirrors, isn’t it?"
Unfortunately for England, many of their batsmen were today left to reflect (boom boom!) on their failure to deal with Ajmal as the 34-year-old returned career-best figures of 7-55.
Displaying exceptional control, in addition to subtle variations in trajectory and speed, Ajmal initially struck three times in five balls to reduce the tourists to 43 for five, before working his way through the lower order in clinical fashion.
But what of the ‘teesra’? Were the likes of Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan deceived by something unfamiliar, or were they simply beaten, on a placid surface providing only occasional turn, by balls that actually did very little?
"I bowled a few but there will be more coming next week," Ajmal confirmed, having seemingly adopted a lower round-arm action - comparable to Lasith Malinga - on a number of occasions as the day wore on.
Strauss was certainly guilty of failing to pick the correct length as he shaped to pull one that skidded on to bowl him for 19, while Morgan paid the price for an ill-judged swipe across the line when he was trapped leg before - one of five to fall in this manner to Ajmal.
Of the top-order batsmen, Ian Bell appeared to be the only victim of a delivery that could possibly be described as unplayable.
Having shaken off a blow to the wrist inflicted by Gooch during yesterday’s net session, he was greeted with a beautifully flighted doosra - a more common sight for batsmen around the world - that he arguably did well to nick through to wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal.
While Bell can consider himself unfortunate, the sight of several of his team-mates being trapped in front - or, in Strauss’ case, bowled - by seemingly innocuous deliveries that merely went straight on certainly provides cause for concern.
Yet only Ajmal and his victims will know the extent of the off-spinner’s deception.
Perhaps it was just a bad day at the office for the world’s number one Test team, who must now show the character that enabled them to reach the summit of the International Cricket Council rankings as they look to battle their way back into the opening Test.