England assistant coach Paul Farbrace believes his team have to believe they can rescue a draw in the second Test match against Pakistan in Dubai and he also praised the batting talents of Yorkshire duo Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow who dug in at the end of day four.
– ENGLAND: Root stands firm but Pakistan in control
As England’s batsmen were pulled apart at the seams by Pakistan’s bowling attack in Dubai, those who followed their Ashes win over Australia this past summer saw the same glaring problems that could have so easily seen that campaign end in defeat.
England looked to address these issues when their touring squad was announced to take on Pakistan, but the cracks seem to have been papered over rather than filled.
In this second Test, those cracks have been exposed once again, the facade crumbling further and the remaining crevice crudely widened by Imran Khan, Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah.
WHAT WAS DONE?
Adam Lyth’s failure against the Aussies was addressed by the call-up of Alex Hales and noises that Moeen Ali could be bumped up the order, paving the way for England to comfortably afford playing two spinners.
The latter indeed went ahead and Ali’s first outing as a Test opener in Abu Dhabi wasn’t the worst audition. He made 35 runs from 131 balls that seemed to suggest the otherwise aggressive Moeen could adapt a more patient approach to the longer format. But it appeared Ali was reigning in the natural game that had previously brought him such success in a freer role at number 8.
A hurried second innings of 11 seemed still too soon to judge but two scores of 1 here in Dubai have exposed Moeen for what he is – a makeshift Test opener.
IS THERE A SOLUTION?
There is, but it would change the dynamic of England’s side.
Quite simply, Hales could come in to partner Cook at the top of the order but in doing so, they would still want to make room for Moeen, his value with bat and ball a vital component in this Test side.
Hales, yet to make his debut in Test cricket, scored 892 runs at 49.55 in 11 matches in the County Championship last year, one of the Nottinghamshire batsman’s finest seasons in county cricket.
England will not only be wary of disrupting their balance but also the implications of replacing yet another Test opener, just two games into Moeen’s stint alongside Cook.
ARE BUTTLER AND BELL OUT OF ORDER?
A huge worry for England is the form of Jos Buttler and Ian Bell.
Until the start of England’s second innings here, Buttler was without a Test hundred in 15 matches and had gone 11 innings without a fifty.
Bell, in equally meagre form, had just four fifties to his name in the 20 innings since his last Test century in 2014.
Batting at three and seven respectively, both Bell and Buttler’s lack of runs are a worry in such pivotal positions in the order. And bearing in mind their long-barren run, England have been remiss in failing to address such an ongoing problem.
Bell managed to notch a much-needed fifty in Abu Dhabi before looking utterly out of sorts for 4 in the first innings in Dubai. He followed that up with a valiant 46 on the fourth day, which may well have saved his status in the side for now.
— Cricingif (@cricingif) October 25, 2015
Buttler’s disappointing first innings duck showed a man bereft of confidence, however. A dropped catch early in Pakistan’s second innings even suggesting it was affecting his ‘keeping, which has otherwise been outstanding on this tour.
WAITING IN THE WINGS
Both Buttler and Bell are under pressure from the media, but the real scrutiny on their place in the side is coming from within.
James Taylor went into this tour on the back of a maiden ODI century against Australia and scored a fluid 61 as he showcased his skill against spin bowling. Able to fit in at his preferred number three or lower down the middle-order, Taylor’s versatility made the calls for his inclusion even louder.
They fell on deaf ears, however, and Taylor has remained an eager 12th man throughout the first two Tests. Considering his absence and the failure of his competitors, he’s probably had the best Test match out of England’s batsman, without even wielding his willow.
WHAT COULD BE DONE?
If wholesale changes were to be made, England could open with Hales alongside Cook, bring Taylor in at three and bat Moeen at seven.
It would mean Buttler and Bell miss out and Jonny Bairstow donning the gloves, leaving the side with two spinners, three frontline seamers and the all-round offering of Ben Stokes.
No balance would be lost in terms of the bowling department and England would accommodate an out-and-out opener as well as Moeen’s more comfortable role counter-attacking at the base of England’s middle-order.
WHAT WILL BE DONE?
Buttler’s position is most definitely under threat, despite reassuring calls from team-mates to the contrary.
It would be hard for England to justify staying with the Lancashire man in Tests and a rest ahead of the freedom of the shorter formats he has excelled in would do him and his team the world of good.
Taylor is likely to be his replacement, Bairstow keeping as a result.
Having given Moeen the nod to open from the off, England are unlikely to change openers with one Test to go, unless Cook’s injury worsens and they are left with an even wider void.
Bell’s reputation and status among his team-mates kept him in favour with selectors, little else explaining the reason for his presence after such a woeful run with the bat.
His knock here in Dubai went some way to justifying that faith and will have surely saved him from the axe.
Joe Root once again stood firm as England’s standout batsman as the tourists valiantly denied Pakistan on day four of the second Test in Dubai.
With England set an improbable target of 490 to win, f as his side closed on 130-3, still 360 runs adrift of Pakistan but with a faint hope of denying the hosts victory.
Jonny Bairstow is the other unbeaten batsman, with 9, as he and Root denied Pakistan in the evening.
For England to bat out the day and salvage a draw they will need Root at his dominant best and the 24-year-old will require substantial support from a middle-order that has looked flaky at best in the two Tests in the UAE so far.
And if they are to win, they will need to post the second highest fourth innings total in history and complete the highest run chase Test cricket has ever seen, 73 runs more than the West Indies’ record of 418 set in 2003 against Australia.
Pakistan will be disappointed that they weren’t able to wrap things up with a day to spare but will be safe in the knowledge that they remain clear favourites to take a 1-0 series lead.
Resuming on 222-3, with a lead of 358, Pakistan set about putting the game well beyond England’s reach with plenty of time left to bowl them out for a final time.
And despite losing captain Misbah-ul-Haq in the fourth over of the morning, there was little England could do to stop Pakistan steamrolling them towards a defeat.
Younis Khan completed a superb 31st Test century and alongside Asad Shafiq took Pakistan to 311-4 at lunch, and a lead of 447.
Younis departed in the fifth over of the afternoon session as his attempted slog sweep off Adil Rashid was brilliantly caught by Moeen Ali, running round from mid on to take the skier low to the ground and over his shoulder.
By the time Misbah decided enough was enough, Shafiq was heading back to the pavilion having made 79 in brisk fashion from 112 balls.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) October 25, 2015
It gave Pakistan a lead of 490 and 17 overs to bowl at England before tea as the tourists faced up to the prospect of batting out more than four sessions to salvage a draw or improbable win.
In need of a solid start to proceedings, it couldn’t have gone worse for England.
Moeen departed in the fifth over for just one run, matching his equally disappointing first innings and casting yet more doubt over his future as a Test opener – just two matches in.
It would get worse for England before the interval, Alastair Cook top edging a slog-sweep to deep square-leg off Yasir Shah for 10.
England were reeling at 19-2, but more worrying was the fitness of their captain and chief run scorer.
— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) October 25, 2015
Cook was visibly struggling during his 22 balls at the crease, limping hurriedly through quick singles and walking easy ones after being hampered by a groin injury.
After his departure, Sky Sports reported the England team as saying they were “unconcerned” by Cook’s injury but the warning signs were there for all to see.
Should Cook miss out in Sharjah, England’s hopes would be significantly diminished.
It would further increase the onus on Joe Root to score the large bulk of England’s runs, the baton once again being forced into his hand in this second innings.
Root joined Ian Bell at the crease as the pair set about trying to null Pakistan’s threat, a task they ably performed in a 102-run partnership for the third wicket, before Bell gloved Zulfiqar Babar to Younis at slip.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) October 25, 2015
It was a welcome innings of 46 from Bell, who is under huge pressure to perform after a barren 12 months of Test cricket.
With James Taylor waiting in the wings, Bell may well have edged ahead of Jos Buttler in the axed stakes for the third and final Test, which begins in Sharjah on 1 November.
While that will come as a relief to the Warwickshire batsman, it will not ease the pain of impending defeat in a Test match England could so easily have swayed in their favour had they not fallen apart at the start of day three.