Six and a half overs. Thirty-nine balls. That’s how close we were to saving the second test. Defeat is obviously disappointing, and questions remain over the composition of the side, but it was extremely heartening to see our lower order take the game to the wire. The lads played well today. Well done.
Adil Rashid batted magnificently. I’ve seen him bat a lot in the past, and always thought he was more than handy, but today he reached heights I’d never seen before. He showed exceptional judgement, left the ball magnificently, and demonstrated really good hands: he has quick wrists, plays the ball softly when he needs to, and moved his feet well too. It’s a real shame his brain farted at the end. I suppose he just lost concentration.
I doubt anyone will blame Rashid for the loss. Everyone knows we lost the match on the third morning when we tossed away seven quick wickets. Our top order also let us down in the second innings. Cook, Moeen, Bairstow and Stokes all played bad shots. If only they could have survived another 39 balls collectively.
It will take something special for us to tie the series in Sharjah. Of all the grounds in the UAE, Sharjah probably spins the most. It will probably offer our seamers diddly squat. I just hope we put up another good fight. It was refreshing to see Broad, Wood and Rashid show some serious cojones in what looked like a lost cause.
The key question now is what XI England should pick in the series finale. My best bet is they pick an unchanged side. Management teams are usually a stubborn lot. The promotion of Moeen and retention of Buttler have become so contentious that they’ll probably want to give these guys every opportunity to prove them right (and everyone else wrong). We’ll see.
Personally I’d like to see England switch things around. Whoever thought Mooen would make a good opener needs to be put in the stocks. I’ll gladly supply passers-by with rotten tomatoes and eggs to fling at them too. It was always a totally daft idea.
As a Worcestershire fan I’ve watched Moeen’s career very closely – probably much closer than the selectors – and I wouldn’t advocate him opening in first class cricket, let alone test cricket. The decision was absolute madness. When I first heard the rumour that Mo might open in the UAE I almost wet myself laughing. I couldn’t believe it was true. My laughter has now turned to tears.
In many ways I think Moeen has been set up to fail. I don’t mean they’ve deliberately sabotaged his England career or anything like that, but this daft experiment was always going to put him under pressure he simply didn’t need.
With Rashid scoring runs at Moeen’s old number eight spot, people are suddenly wondering whether Mo’s worth a place in the XI at all. I’ve even heard calls for Samit Patel to replace him. England have basically taken a guy who was flourishing down the order – one of the few batting successes of the Ashes – and screwed him up.
Moeen must be feeling very unsettled at this moment in time. His confidence will be low. He’ll be feeling unsure of his role moving forward. And I bet nobody even considered how his poor batting form might affect his bowling #duh.
England’s problem of course – and we said this when the squad was announced in the first place – is there’s no proper opener waiting to replace him. There’s always Alex Hales I suppose, but he’s not someone who convinces me in the slightest – not as an opener anyway. I can see him being successful down the order, but he’s looked dreadful at the top of the order in the ODIs.
It was reassuring today to hear Marcus Trescothick suggest something I’ve banged on about before: moving Bell up to open. Cook and Bell were a relatively successful (if a little one-paced) ODI opening partnership, so this would’ve made a lot more sense than promoting Mo. You can hear Tresco’s thoughts on this very subject above.
The other change I’d make is to put poor Jos out of his misery. England can’t afford to keep picking two technically flawed batsmen-keepers. It’s time to hand Bairstow the gloves.
I say this with some apprehension however. The shot Bairstow played when he was out bowled today – playing across the line with a unsightly flick – was something schoolboys get berated for. The problem is we can’t afford any passengers at the moment. Jonny is technically the reserve keeper in the squad so it’s time to step up.
I also think it’s time to give James Taylor a go. Once again I have to admit I’m not the pocket rocket’s biggest fan, but I do believe he’s a better player of spin than many of his colleagues. Taylor has quick feet, a good attitude, and an unorthodox method that might take Pakistan a while to fathom. Let’s see how he goes.
In my preferred XI, Taylor would simply come in for Buttler with Moeen moving down the order. Don’t be surprised, however, if it’s Patel, not Ali, who actually plays at seven when the teams are announced in Sharjah. I’ve just got a hunch.
Then again, as I said earlier in this piece I can see England fielding exactly the same XI too. Did you see how I covered my bases there?
TFT XI: Cook, Bell, Taylor, Root, Bairstow, Stokes, Moeen, Rashid, Broad, Wood, Anderson