Don Topley: England must learn from first Test humbling by Pakistan, or get thrashed again!
In his latest column, Don Topley reflects on England’s humbling defeat in the first Test of the summer against Pakistan last week.
Pakistan were so mature, impressive and superior to England in all three disciplines last week – they fully deserved their success at Lord’s for the first Test of the summer.
Playing a two match Test series is just the first course before a five-match series with India which is the main meal - that is not to belittle Pakistan.
Joe Root’s decision on day one after winning the toss to bat seems as much a clanger as Nasser Hussain’s famous and costly decision at Brisbane, years ago, where Hussain opted to bowl.
At Lord’s last Thursday it was humid, overcast and offered a ‘greenish’ pitch – an easy decision to bowl.
Pakistan immediately showed how to bowl in English conditions. The length required is fuller than everywhere else in the world, except New Zealand.
Pakistan got it right! They then, wore England down by putting a value on their wicket, patiently batted and made a decent lead. It’s true that their batting was perhaps old fashioned and admirably slow and watchful – unlike England. After all, this was Test Match cricket!
Many journalists strongly slated England suggesting it was pathetic (again) or ‘same old’ but the most respected journalist, George Dobell, of Cricinfo, went a little further with his reasoning that this was a “humilation waiting to happen”.
Dobell acknowledges, as all do, that England coach, Trevor Bayliss, has done wonders for England’s white ball cricket – but perhaps not our Test Match game.
Dobell suggested: “It’s a culmination of several years of ECB policies that have disrespected Test Match cricket”.
One example is the staging of County Championship at either end of the summer. Another is to allow our top contracted players to go around the world playing T20 and arriving back days before the Test begins. I would agree.
Whilst this was England’s first Test of the summer it was not Pakistan’s - they warmed up on the slow Malahide pitch in Ireland’s debut Test only two weeks ago.
Pakistan beat new boys Ireland by five wickets, but had an excellent workout with both bat and ball, acclimatising to the slower wickets and quickly identifying those vital bowling lengths.
England debutant Dom Bess looked comfortable and gained some credit and will keep his squad place. He and Jos Buttler toiled hard with the bat, but only when the damage was done.
Some have asked for James Anderson and/or Stuart Broad to be dropped but not me. They remain the best Test Match bowlers we have and have both proved doubters wrong previously.
Alastair Cook dropped anchor as Alastair does and played beautifully for his four hour, first innings score of 70.
Congratulations to him for equalling Allan Border’s amazing world record of 153 consecutive Test Match appearances – he will enjoy Headingley later this week!
Another person I was really pleased for was the Pakistan coach, Mickey Arthur. I got to know Mickey’s family extremely well in Natal, South Africa, over many winters.
Mickey, in due course, became my old opening batsman in provincial cricket at Griqualand West. An accumulating old-fashioned batsman himself, he has endured some difficult times as a coach after taking South Africa to number one in the world, with former Springbok captain, Graeme Smith.
Arthur travelled away from Africa to become coach of Western Australia, before taking over as coach of the Australian team – their first overseas coach.
A controversial appointment, not always respected by the brash Aussie player. They parted company after some mediocre results and ‘homeworkgate’.
He kept in touch with the game by coaching in various T20 leagues before being appointed Pakistan coach in 2016.
Mickey is a hard working, polite, kind and generous person and although quite shy, possesses excellent communication skills – pleasing to see good guys do win!
His team are now one nil up with a Test to play. If it is wet in Leeds later this week, the Pakistani coach won’t mind.
Moreover, if Joe Root and his men don’t learn quickly and change their mental attitude towards batting, that trashing at Lord’s could be repeated – God forbid – should England play as badly again.
And Mickey knows only too well to beat England in England is something the Pakistan players and their public could only dream of!