Defensive attitude costs England dear

Published : Jun 23, 2001 00:00 IST

TEST cricket is no place for the faint-hearted and this eventually cost England a win in the two-Test series against Pakistan.

In the first Test and for four days of the second, England sought the initiative and played wonderful attacking cricket.

On the last day at Manchester, an unlikely victory was possible, but they resorted to being happy with a draw for a 1-0 win in the series and paid the penalty.

Just why and how they changed their attitude is difficult to assess. What it has done though is to give the psychological advantage to Australia for the Ashes series.

Right now the Aussies will be thinking that the Poms haven't changed; they are still negative and uncertain and we will go in for the kill in the first Test.

The signs were probably evident that England would be happy with a draw when they left out off-spinner Croft. Four seamers is asking for trouble at Old Trafford and smacks of a defensive mindset.

While Old Trafford can be faster and bouncier than any other wicket in England, it does take spin. With Lancashire, our attack at home is always two quicks and two spinners with a medium-pace all-rounder to back them up.

England went the safe way and paid the penalty, while Pakistan, who played an all-pace attack at Lords in the first Test, included their match-winning off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq.

England will comfort themselves saying, "we have drawn the series and it was a great Test match."

The old saying that cricket won can rightly be applied to this Test. It was a brilliant, fascinating encounter and one of the best and most exciting that I have witnessed.

Much was made of the umpires for not calling no-ball on three of the decisions in the vital last session.

They were certainly no-balls and missed by the umpires, but in my view only evened out the luck in the match, for prior to that last session, England got by far the lion's share of good luck in umpiring decisions.

The English press will make much of these no-balls and there is sure to be a call to use the third umpire for such decisions.

Personally, I will remember not the umpiring decisions but what a great Test match it was.

What made it so brilliant? Simple, attitude. For four days both teams went at each other hammer and tong and at all times in an aggressive manner.

The batting in the first four days was breathtaking and even in the 22 overs available to them in the last session of the fourth day, Atherton and Trescothick scored at nearly four runs an over to give their team an opportunity to push for victory.

This Test should have also dispelled the view, particularly in England, that all the sledging in cricket is done by Australia. I saw as much sledging in this Test as any I have ever seen.

Both teams were not shy to attack each other, with mouth and ball. It wasn't out of hand, but it was sure a red blooded affair. In fact that blood may have been flowing too hot in the last 22 overs on the fourth day as Pakistan entered into a bounce-a-thow.

Poor tactics undoubtably enabled England to prosper at four runs an over. Pakistan were probably rattled, and seeking vengeance for many verbal spats during the hard fought battle earlier. In doing so they forgot their game plan and barraged the openers with unrelenting bouncers.

It looked intimidating no doubt, but then they played right into the hands of the English openers. Wasim Akram was particularly at fault. He has played with Mike Atherton for Lancashire for 10 seasons and must have been aware that Atherton is secure against the short ball and vulnerable against the well up swinging delivery.

Proof of this was evident in his first innings dismissal when he was caught behind, uncertainly pushing half forward to a Waqar Younis delivery.

He was bowled in the second inning by a similar delivery by Younis. Fast bowlers often lose the plot when the red haze appears to cloud their brain and common sense.

I used to tell my Australian charges that I had never seen them win a sledging match. By this I meant they weren't getting wickets, because they weren't thinking correctly.

The Old Trafford match was great in many ways. The groundsman, Peter Marron, produced a wonderful Test pitch, hard, fast and bouncy, which allowed the batsmen to play their strokes and the bowlers to achieve success if they bent their backs and used guile.

This couldn't have been further from the truth. There was spirited support for both teams, but never a hint of trouble. It reminded me of the crowd at Old Trafford when India played Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup.

Trouble was expected then, but even in a closely fought encounter none lost their humour and when India won, both sets of supporters celebrated a great match. It was the same this year.

What a great pity it is when Governments can't agree and take it out on sport. We have seen boycotts over political matters in at least two Olympic Games since World War II and cricket tours being cancelled in recent times. Perhaps if we left it to the sportsmen, the world would be a better place.

More stories from this issue

Sign in to unlock all user benefits
  • Get notified on top games and events
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign up / manage to our newsletters with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early bird access to discounts & offers to our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment