Saturday, 7 November 2015

Pakistan 2 England 0

The third and final test went to Pakistan.  England performed well to dismiss Pakistan for 234 and began batted pretty well to reach 308 and a 74 run lead on first innings.  After two days England seemed to be on top but from the third day onwards Pakistan took over.  They made 355 in their second innings and always looked likely to win from there.  A familiar middle order collapse on the final morning insured this was so.  England's seamers, Broad and Anderson bowled superbly and there was good batting from Cook, Taylor, Patel and Bairstow but it wasn't enough.  Injury to Stokes did not help the cause.

England were unlucky to lose the toss on all three occasions and were competitive throughout the series but the 2-0 scoreline was probably a fair reflection of the series.  Alastair Cook had an excellent series with the bat, Joe Root done well too without converting good innings into match changing scores.  James Taylor's 74 in the third test should see him occupy a middle order position for some time to come and with his form in all formats of the game this year this will be well deserved.  Ian Bell frustrated us as he has all year.  There were good innings but he kept getting out when a player of his class should push on.

By the end of the series Bairstow had replaced Buttler behind the stumps as the latter's form was poor and his confidence seemed low.  Bairstow has now played twenty test matches and still doesn't look like a test class player.  I expect him to start in England's next series but ultimately Joss Buttler will return and become a fixture in the side.

Poor old Moeen Ali seems such a likable bloke but the decision to use him as an opener failed and his bowling was/is just not good enough.  England's spinners were nowhere near as good as Pakistan's, no control and far less threat.  The only exception being the final day of the first test when Adil Rashid nearly spun us to an unlikely victory.  Samit Patel, ditto, sorry not good enough.

England's pacemen, Anderson, Broad and Wood were simply superb, control, accuracy, economy and wickets. Enough said.  Ben Stokes didn't have his best series but we know he is class.  He was injured in the final test but hopefully won't be out for long.

Only a few years ago, under Andrew Strauss' captaincy England had a settled team that virtually picked itself.  This was the team that reached No.1 in the world rankings.  This series was interesting in as much as it showed us England are still a long way short of that.  Only a handful of players are automatic selections; Cook, Root, Stokes, Broad, Anderson and Bell is hanging in there but must get back to top form.  We are no closer to finding an opening partner for Cook, Alex Hales is next in line but in hindsight it looks like Compton and Carberry were discarded too soon.  James Taylor must have played himself into the starting line up for South Africa in December and the third seamer will be a choice between Finn and Wood.  Bairstow is the man in possession of the keepers gloves but I still think Buttler will be the man long term.  Roll on Boxing day!

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