Never a dull moment
Posted in England v Pakistan (in UAE) 2012
Few can have predicted what has unfolded between England and Pakistan over the last month.
With one positive result in the four Tests at Abu Dhabi and Dubai prior to England’s visit, expectations of more draws and slow-moving cricket were reasonable.
Nothing could have been further from the truth as Andrew Strauss’ top-ranked side found to their cost, with an opening defeat inside three days and two more within four.
That first Test whitewash since the 2006-07 Ashes, on the back of previous number ones India losing all four Tests in England last summer, reflected further the unpredictable nature of the international game.
Given such a setback in a format that England had excelled in, many feared for their fate in the one-day internationals. Surely Pakistan, who had won 12 of their previous 13 ODIs, would prevail?
An inconsistent World Cup campaign and 5-0 whitewash by India during their last ODIs in Asia hardly inspired confidence, but Alastair Cook’s team disregarded recent history.
Cook himself led by example with consecutive hundreds in an international format many would not pick him for, never mind as captain.
He was ably supported in those first two ODIs by another player whose presence had been much questioned: Ravi Bopara, who made back-to-back fifties.
More may have followed, but Bopara was denied the opportunity to bat in a third match that England won by nine wickets on the back of a 170-run opening stand from Cook and Kevin Pietersen.
Pietersen, without an ODI ton in more than three years, quickly grew into his second fist at opening for his adopted country with consecutive centuries of his own.
The second came yesterday as England made four changes, only Bopara’s absence forced, yet still won relatively comfortably.
Besides Jos Buttler, who came in for the injured Bopara, the three other fresh faces were bowlers. That Tim Bresnan, Danny Briggs and Jade Dernbach - the latter returning an ODI-best 4-45 - shared seven wickets reflects a real strength in this department.
Steven Finn, an ever-present in the ODI series, claimed two of the others. With Saeed Ajmal managing three in England’s chase, Finn was the rubber’s leading wicket-taker with 13 at a remarkable average of 10.30.
Having been surplus to requirements in the Tests, Finn was consistently England’s best bowler for a second straight series - twice taking best limited-overs international figures of 4-34. A recall in whites cannot be far off.
Just as impressive as Finn’s statistics are Cook and Pietersen’s batting, with 323 runs at 80.75 and 281 at 93.66 respectively. Pakistan’s best was Misbah-ul-Haq with 108 at 27.
A further telling statistic was an international side being dismissed in every game of an ODI series for only the second time, albeit Pakistan batted out their overs in the last two contests.
So to the three T20s, for which Cook is staying on as cover for Bopara.
Like in Tests, England are top of the tree. No doubt skipper Stuart Broad hopes these games will go to form. Whether they will remains to be seen.