Well, we all knew it was coming. Most of us knew it was coming from the moment the tour was announced. England just weren’t good enough. There’s no point sugar coating it.
The saving grace, however, is that few teams are good enough to compete with Pakistan in the UAE. Losing to this opposition, in these conditions, is no disgrace.
Pakistan duly wrapped up their series win this morning in emphatic fashion. Only Alastair Cook, and for a short time Adil Rashid, offered any resistance. Our middle order was blown away like a tumbleweed in the desert.
There will be plenty of analysis in the coming days – rumour has it that a certain Maxie Allen will be making his EMS! debut tomorrow – but for now I’ll give you my lasting impressions of the series …
Essentially this tour has taught us relatively little. It was interesting enough in the end – it was fascinating to watch a team of young all-rounders try to compete against a battle hardened unit of specialists in alien conditions – but what have we actually learned?
Everyone knew England’s deficiencies before the series: a lack of quality spinners, a brittle middle-order and a Strauss-shaped void at the top of the order. It’s no surprise these vulnerabilities have bitten us in the buttocks.
England remain very much a work in progress: we’ve just slipped to sixth in the world rankings, and we’ve now lost more test matches than we’ve won since the Ashes whitewash in Australia twenty two months ago.
On the one hand, it’s possible to argue that England still haven’t made any progress at all. There’s still no opening partner for Cook; we haven’t adequately replaced Trott and, dare I say it, Pietersen.
Bell’s form has also gone down the plughole. In fact, we’ve probably got more problems now that we had two years ago. We don’t even have an established wicket-keeper these days.
However, there are reasons to be optimistic too. England might have lost this series 0-2 but at least we made Pakistan work for it. We probably shouldn’t compare ourselves to Australia all the time, but Misbah has revealed that Pakistan found England a much harder nut to crack than our antipodean chums.
This England side might have glaring weaknesses, but it has some promise too. Cook and Root are still scoring runs – although obviously they need some help – and for the first time in a long time we boast some promising young cricketers with both talent and attitude: Stokes and Taylor certainly have that all important air of confidence.
The one area that has definitely improved is our seam bowling depth. Anderson and Broad have taken more test wickets than anyone else in the world this year (although England have played far more games than anyone else); they look like they’ve got plenty of juice left in the tank.
Meanwhile Stokes and Wood are feisty change bowlers who give the seam attack more spark and aggression than its had since 2005. Plunkett and Finn, two decent bowlers with some experience, are waiting in the wings should injury strike.
Improvements have also been made off the field. Bayliss is a huge upgrade on Moores, Gibson seems to be doing a better job than Saker, and Strauss is to Downton what a Mercedes is to horse-drawn carriage (even if they share similar outlooks).
Consequently I see the current England test side as something of a conundrum wrapped up in a riddle. There’s a lot to deplore – but also a lot to like.
I have no idea what to expect when we go to South Africa. I can see us getting hammered; but equally I can see us turning them over if, through collective effort and lower order runs, we can put competitive totals on the board.
All we can do is enjoy the ride.