Pakistan out-played England in the recent Test series, in the United Arab Emirates. The 3-0 “spinwash” marked the slump that the more pessimistic of England’s followers almost wished on the team.
“England can’t play on sub-continental pitches” (the soil for the Dubai strips was shipped in from Pakistan).
“England’s batsmen can’t play spin”
And all this, apparently, without Saeed Ajmal’s teesra – more often than not, England simply failed to hit the ball (Pakistan’s batting was only slightly better, at times) – 32 of the 60 wickets to fall were LBW or bowled.
So, come the ODI series, England fans expected more of the same – only for the team to confound those expectations with a 4-0 series win, and commanding batting, from skipper Alistair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, in particular.
What happened? As England tumbled to 72 all out, on the 4th day of the second Test, Michael Vaughan was exhorting the batters to show some “busy-ness” – to get their feet moving and play with intent.
Whether from design, or through hard work with the coaching team, or simply because the option of blocking and nudging is largely removed by the format of the 50-over game, that is exactly what they did in the ODI series. Against largely the same bowling attack, and in similar conditions, England batted purposefully in all 4 matches.
So – in between the Test and ODI series, had England “learned to play spin”? Or “found out how to play on sub-continental pitches”?
Or simply decided to “get on with it”?
And what was the role of the coaching team?