Rehman stuns England to give Pakistan series 2nd Cricket Test

Abu Dhabi, Jan 28, 2012 (Report by David Hopps): Rehman stuns England, England suffered one of their most disastrous batting collapses in Test history as they disintegrated against Pakistan’s spinners to lose the second Test in Abu Dhabi and with it the series. Pakistan went 2-0 up with one to play as Abdur Rehman, their left-arm spinner, took most of the plaudits with a Test-best 6 for 25.

England had only lost on four occasions in Test history when presented with a victory target of 145 or fewer, evoking memories of when they were run ragged by Richard Hadlee and made 64 against New Zealand in Wellington. They did not even get halfway, dismissed for 72 in only 36.1 overs, their lowest total since the debacle against West Indies in Kingston three years ago which became the catalyst for their transformation under the stewardship of the coach, Andy Flower, and captain, Andrew Strauss.

England were never in the hunt at the Sheikh Zayed stadium after Monty Panesar‘s triumphant return to Test cricket – 6 for 62, the second best figures of his Test career — left them chasing only 145 for victory. The pitch offered prodigious turn at times but it was England’s inability to read the length of Pakistan’s spinners that cost them just as dearly.

Rehman fell to his knees and kissed the turf after taking five wickets in a Test innings for the first time. England had come to Dubai fearing Saeed Ajmal‘s devilish mix of off spinners and doosras and they had fallen instead to one of the most unsung spinners in the international game. Not that Ajmal could be entirely excluded. He became the quickest Pakistan player to reach 100 Test wickets when Matt Prior became the ninth England batsman to fall, and his serene presence was a counterpoint to the excitability all around him.

For a Pakistan side that was so recently embroiled in controversy after three players were jailed for their part in the spot-fixing scandal, this was a striking restatement of their talent. The captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, has brought stability where too often there has been near anarchy and more and more people will look upon Mohsin Khan’s position as interim coach and wonder why the word “interim” still remains. England’s horrors in Asia go on, their status as the No. 1 team in the Test rankings already under threat. Another calamitous top-order collapse saw them lose four wickets for 16 runs in 37 balls as what little confidence they had was shaken by a debilitating stomach bug for Jonathan Trott, the bedrock of their batting, who came in at No. 7.

England, as if shaken by Trott’s illness, crawled to 21 in nearly 15 overs before Alastair Cook tried to work Mohammad Hafeez into the legside against the spin and chipped a gentle return catch off a leading edge. It was the least that Pakistan deserved because he should have been out leg before three balls earlier. Only Adnan Akmal, the wicketkeeper, was convinced that it was out and by then his incessant appealing had started to wash over everybody, his team-mates included.

Ian Bell’s woes against Ajmal’s doosra have wrecked his series. This time he got out to a trick shot, trying to dead bat a doosra but contriving to pop it through his own legs onto the stumps. He left looking to the heavens, an accomplished batsman suddenly little Boy Lost again.

Aficionados of Kevin Pietersen‘s supposed fallibility against left-arm spin of any quality will find fresh evidence in the way he played outside Rehman’s arm ball. Pietersen’s recourse to DRS was overturned, the ball shown to be clipping the top of middle, and he trudged off with the air of a man about to fashion an excuse first and a technique later.

That left Eoin Morgan, reputedly one of England’s best players of spin, a reputation that owes everything to adventurous innings in one-day cricket. The pressure of Test cricket demanded a reassessment as he edged onto the back foot as Rehman turned one back slightly and was bowled past a horribly angled blade.

England’s plight could have been worse if Strauss had been given out caught off bat and pad at short leg by Azhar Ali off Rehman. Strauss, on 16, was blessed as the umpires turned to the third umpire, Billy Bowden, to check if the ball had carried and Bowden, in a pernickety decision that defied common sense, responded that he could not be certain.

It was impossible to see where his doubt had arisen. But Strauss was unable to organise prolonged resistance. He made 32, more than half England’s runs, produced virtually England’s only moment of authority when he swept Rehman for four and then fell to the next ball as he was lbw, caught on the back foot. England challenged the decision and lost their second review.

If Trott had produced heroics, the Test would have forever been dubbed Trott’s Trots. Perhaps it was just as well he did not. He might have been run out on nought when he angled Rehman to backward point and was late setting off for a run and soon fell to one from Rehman that straightened, another England batsman pinned on the back foot.

Rehman bowled Broad through the gate two balls later to quell thoughts that he might repeat his first-innings adventure and the mopping up of the England tail was a formality. Panesar had promised so much more. He has watched Graeme Swann‘s reputation grow apace in his two-and-a-half year absence but England’s decision to field both of them for the first time since they faced Australia in Cardiff in the 2009 Ashes series has brought his Test career out of hibernation in style.

He took three wickets on the fourth day as Pakistan, who resumed on 125 for 4, were dismissed 25 minutes into the afternoon session. Asad Shafiq, who had resisted so determinedly alongside Azhar on the previous day, was well caught low at first slip by James Anderson as Panesar found sharp turn. He completed the job after lunch, Ajmal edging another turning ball to slip and Junaid Khan slogging recklessly. Panesar’s 6 for 62 was outdone only by his 6 for 37 against New Zealand at Old Trafford three years ago.

Azhar fell to the second new ball, failing to withdraw from a lifting delivery from Anderson. His 68 had spanned four-and-a-quarter hours and had served Pakistan proud. A cool and misty morning in Abu Dhabi was more akin to Manchester in October and, although such climatic conditions are not universally hailed as salubrious, they perked up England’s bowlers. But for England’s batsmen the demands of Asia were soon all too apparent.

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