There are two types of straight sets losses in a tennis match; the type where the winner waltzes through; and the type where the loser fails to win the right moments in tie-breaks. England's loss was the cricketing equivalent of the latter. Arguably they ought to have won the series; except they didn't, because they couldn't get the job done when it mattered.
The failures were almost entirely the fault of the batsmen. Broad and Anderson were far better than they ought to have been on relatively flat pitches; Panesar and Swann were both very good. Yet Pakistan won the war, because, as they do most often these days, they stayed in the game long enough. Azhar Ali is a very impressive young batsman, and Younis Khan a very under-rated great one. Together they and Misbah ul Haq put together 303 second innings runs in two partnership, book-ended by collapses of 12/127 and 7/34.
England's batting against spin was marginally better in this game, but they still found themselves stroke-less, prodding and poking at the ball like children armed with sticks fighting off a snake. The middle order that dominated last year ended the series in the record books: Pietersen, so paranoid about the lbw threat his normal stride forward could bring left his stumps open again; Bell, unable to read the spin was a mercy kill; Morgan betraying his lack of confidence through his attacking play.
Ajmal and Rehman did the damage with the ball, although Umar Gul proved useful in the second innings. Owing to their horrible start to the game (5/21 and 7/44), Pakistan were never completely comfortable. But they had the confidence in their ability, and the slow scoring rate ensured they'd have plenty of time to broach defences. England's failures bring their ranking down a little, with little prospect of immediate gains; Pakistan, by contrast could move into second with some more big wins. Unfortunately it will be many months until they have that opportunity.
These are bad times for Kenyan cricket. Their golden generation retied, their youth not as strong, but still saddled with the expectation that they be in the top few associates. Their recent form is dire, losing a string of games to their fellow African nations, and being thrashed by the UAE in their previous I-Cup game (the game against the Netherlands being washed out). At home to Ireland at the tail-end of their summer, they ought to be competitive. But (nearly) full strength Ireland are almost certainly beyond them. An innings loss looks a more likely bet than a win.
Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.
Idle Summers 9th February, 2012 23:17:30 [#]