There have not been many times in the past 18 months where Andrew Strauss has had to face the cameras after a defeat. However, as Betfair’s betting ambassador Michael Vaughan pointed out recently, the smart money was always on Pakistan to take the first Test – Pakistan are a side on the up playing in familiar conditions and England are notoriously slow starters.
All the talk leading into the series surrounded England’s bowling outfit and whether they could squeeze in Monty Panesar after his impressive performance in the final warm-up game. However, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann and, to a lesser extent, Chris Tremlett performed admirably during Pakistan’s first innings and it was the Three Lions’ vaunted batting line-up which spectacularly failed to fire, losing their seventh wicket for less than 100 runs in both innings, the first time that that has happened since 1988.
Andy Flower has suggested that England were undercooked heading into this Test, and in truth England did look rusty. However, they’re not exactly strangers to bouncing back after heavy defeats (just look at Perth in the last Ashes series) and Flower and Strauss are experts at putting bad results behind them (Sabina Park in 2009, anyone?).
There remains the possibility that England, buoyed by memories of their 3-1 triumph in 2010, subconsciously took their opponents lightly. After all, Strauss’ side are a confident bunch these days, and although Pakistan have had little to beat in recent months, England have not been tested a great deal either. India, for example, may have been toppled as the No.1 side but in reality they are fourth or fifth if their performance against England, and subsequently Australia, are anything to go by. But there is little doubt that, if any complacency did exist, it’s been smacked out of them now.
Solving the Ajmal problem remains England’s foremost concern. It is probable that Strauss and Flower will have their analysts working overtime on deciphering his variations. Ian Bell will hope they do a good job as he has become the offspinner’s bunny, twice failing to pick the one that goes straight on.
For the next Test England could shuffle their pack. Chris Tremlett and Eoin Morgan making way for Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara would be the knee-jerk reaction. It would be a surprise if they ripped up the four-man formula, however, after one bad result, particularly as they would appear to need all the batsmen they can get.
Pakistan are 1.54 to win the series but with a draw expected next time up, the smart money may be on a draw at 4.00 [3/1]. England are 7.00 [6/1] but will struggle to put back-to-back wins together.
RECOMMENDED BET: Drawn series at 4.00 [3/1]
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