England ready for latest test
Posted in England v Pakistan (in UAE) 2012
American statesman Benjamin Franklin is credited with having coined the phrase: ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.’
I have yet to discover whether Andy Flower is an admirer of Franklin (who, much like his namesake - New Zealand international James - can be described as something of an all-rounder), but there can be little doubt that England’s team director holds similar views when it comes to readying his side for their next challenge.
In years gone by, England have been frequently criticised for their preparation ahead of major series ... yet such comments have noticeably dried up since Flower took the reins on a permanent basis in April 2009.
Nowadays, no stone is left unturned and such meticulous planning will surely serve the world’s number one Test side well as they look to secure victory over Pakistan in a three-match series, starting in Dubai next Tuesday.
It would be foolish to underestimate the threat posed by England’s opponents, who have made the United Arab Emirates their ‘home’ since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team in Lahore almost three years ago.
Unbeaten in Test series under Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan boast an array of talented batsmen, a seemingly limitless supply of seam bowlers and a highly effective batch of spinners, spearheaded by Saeed Ajmal, the five-day game’s leading wicket-taker in 2011.
However, if England are to come undone in the Middle East, they will not be able to point to a lack of preparation, having once again spent valuable time honing their skills in the lead-up to the series opener.
A somewhat unconvincing three-wicket victory over an ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI may not have represented the ideal start to England’s tour in terms of performance, and, aside from Alastair Cook’s composed 133, there was little to recommend in the batting display that saw Andrew Strauss’ side restricted to 269 for nine by a Pakistan Cricket Board XI today.
However, players and coaches alike are appreciative of the need to shake off any rust before the serious action gets under way - and there can be little doubt that the team will benefit from their experiences over the past week.
“We try to get as much competitive cricket into us as possible, so that when we come to the first morning of that Test match we’re ready for it,” explained Cook after day one of England’s opening warm-up fixture.
A similar approach paid dividends in last winter’s Ashes and, although Tim Bresnan was forced to fly home this week after experiencing post-operative pain in his elbow, England appear to be in good shape ahead of next week’s series-opener, with Matt Prior, Chris Tremlett and Graeme Swann having all shaken off niggles to feature against the PCB XI.
England’s reserve wicketkeeper - Steven Davies - and second spinner - Monty Panesar - have also been given an opportunity to impress, while Tremlett is one of three pacemen of proven quality, along with Steven Finn and Graham Onions, battling to fill the vacancy left by Bresnan’s premature exit.
Make no mistake, I expect Pakistan to make life very difficult for England over the coming weeks, but you can bet the tourists will be ready for everything that is thrown at them.