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Eng v Pak - Bring on India
24 Dec 2005
By: Alex Crampton


Pakistan and England both play series against India in the New Year, but Pakistan will go in on the back of comfortable series wins, while England will look to put this tour behind them.

But after the first, it all looked so good for England didn't it? They racked up a big total of 327, Andrew Strauss anchoring the innings at good pace and Flintoff and Pietersen scoring runs the way they know best. The bowlers did their job too, Flintoff on song as always, Ian Blackwell economical, and debutant Liam Plunkett holding his nerve at the death to claim 3 wickets. Not at all bad for a side with 3 first team players back at home.

So what went wrong after that? Well, England's batsmen failed to put together another score higher than 230 for the rest of the series, and even that was on a batsman's paradise. England's batsman played poorly, No batsman seemed able to stay in and make a big score, it says it all that only 4 half-centuries were made by England in the series, and one of those came from Liam Plunkett. Admittedly they were without Pietersen for the last 3 matches, and Pakistan's bowlers were excellent, particularly Rana Naved and Shoaib Akhtar with the new ball, who often gave Pakistan a great start which England could not recover from. Still, England's batsmen need to put in a lot of work to avoid a similar performance in India.

The biggest positive to come out of this series for England was Liam Plunkett. Although he was expensive at times, he chipped in with wickets at important times, and he held showed maturity beyond his 20 years when bowling at the death in England's victories. But Plunkett has another string to his bow, his batting. A half-century in his maiden innings gave England a chance, and he belted 24 off 12 in the final match, which would prove crucial in the end. Despite the series loss, England would be harsh on themselves to take nothing away from the series. Flintoff was exemplary with both bat and ball, while James Anderson took 7 wickets during the series, including 4 in England's win at Rawalpindi. Kabir Ali slotted in well in his solitary game, and Ian Blackwell's left-arm-orthodox was economical throughout, and the Somerset allrounder's 3-29 went a long way toward England's consolation victory.

Other than that, there was little to write home about. Harmison was not his usual destructive self, Strauss did nothing after his initial 94, Prior did little to cement himself in Duncan Fletcher's plans and Collingwood disappointed with bat and ball.

Pakistan on the other hand, have a lot more to be happy about from the series. Kamran Akmal continued his development into a world-class wicketkeeper-batsman, both in front and behind the stumps, his 2 hundreds earning him the Man of the Series award. Inzamam Ul-Haq continued his amazing form from the test series and Mohammad Yousuf contributed 3 half-centuries. In the bowling department Shoaib Akhtar and Rana Naved continued to be a potent new ball pairing, Shahid Afridi took wickets, while Arshad Khan was extremely economical. When they rested Akhtar for the final match, debutant Asif proved a worthy replacement, taking 2-14 off his 7 overs.

Despite the win, there are things that need to be improved upon in the Pakistani camp. In both the games they lost the lower order collapsed under pressure, and it was no coincidence that these were the 2 games where Inzamam was not able to make a sizeable contribution. Both captains need to look at their use of the Super Sub, it was often rendered useless when the coin didn't land the right way up. When Pakistan had England's tail exposed they seemed to ease up, and this nearly cost them dearly and is something they will need to improve upon if they look to become the best in the world.

England need to work hard to have a chance against India, in both forms of the game, while Pakistan need to build upon what they already have when they host the old enemy. Whatever happens we should be in for a pair of magnificent series. Bring on India.

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