Proper preparation prevents poor performance. Since arriving in the Emirates on the 3rd of January Strauss’s men have hit the ball running from the word go by winning both of their warm up fixtures at the ICC global academy in Dubai against an associate 11 captained by Ireland’s William Porterfield and a Pakistan Board side captained by Pakistan’s former U19 wicket keeper in Safraz Ahmed. The confidence levels are high and the team have had a thorough time to regroup and assess their strategy ahead of the first test on Tuesday.
England’s preparation has been one of the key factors towards how they have reached the top of the ICC rankings and for the eagerly awaited series against Pakistan this proved no different with England being clinical in their start to the tour. Unlike their last tour in 2005 England lost their warm up fixture against Pakistan “A” before going to lose the 3 match test series 2-0. In the past in 2000 when they beat Pakistan in the dark at the NSK to take the series 1-0 they won both of their warm up fixtures going in to the first test against the Patrons 11 and NWFP Governors 11. Additionally, in 2006-07 Ashes tour, England had lost two of their 5 warm up fixtures and not won any of them while going on to lose embarrassingly 5-0 which all kicked off after that infamous wide ball from Harmison on the first ball of the series which was a reflection that England was simply unready to defend the urn.
However, in the 2010-11 Ashes tour England arrived on board early and got two victories under their belt going into the first test at Brisbane where they managed to hang on for a draw courtesy of the outstanding 2nd wicket stand between Cook and Trott in the 2nd innings which got the visitors out of jail and they eventually went on to win the Ashes convincingly 3-1 with 3 innings victories to win the Ashes down under for the first time in 24 years. It’s evident that England has learnt from their mistakes and value the significance of sound preparation under the well managed and guided Flower and Strauss partnership.
The injury of Tim Bresnan is a huge setback for England. The Yorkshire bowling all rounder can be invaluable with the bat at number eight and has the control and stamina to bowl long penetrating spells. Bresnan was a revelation for England and can also reverse the older ball. However, England do have plenty of strength in depth with the likes of Finn and Tremlett who have done well when they have got their chances who could stand up and show their worth and will eagerly want to. However, this does slightly weaken the resistance of the tail as both are genuine tail enders as opposed to bowling all rounders or bowlers who can bat which Pakistan will be relieved about. The accurate and typical English seamer Onions from Durham is also waiting in the wings and got a chance to get back in the whites for England when the main attack were rested for their 2nd warm up fixture.
Monty had a memorable outing and outbowled Swann claiming 8 scalps in the warm up fixture against Pakistan “A” and puts his name into the reckoning for the first test. Monty was influential when Pakistan were beaten by England 2-0 at home in 2006 including troubling players of the calibre of Younis and Yousuf who are elegant and secure players of spin bowling.
Mohammad Talha who is in the 16 man squad for Pakistan claimed 4 wickets in the 1st innings for the Board 11, but the stand out performer would have to go to Yasir Shah, the legspinner who debuted on Pakistan’s tour of Zimbabwe in September who claimed 8 wickets including a 5 for in the first innings. Young left arm spinner Raza Hasan made a well complied half century although went wicketless with the ball. Fawad Alam made a half century in the 2nd innings, but the team faltered.
All in all, England is fully prepared. The warm ups are done and dusted. Now it’s time for the real test to begin. England is in unfamiliar territory and keen to prove their metal in Asia this year with tours of Sri Lanka and India planned later in the year as well as them looking to retain the World Number 1 spot and improve their track record on wickets less favourable to them. They shouldn’t lose any of the away visits this year and will want to win at least one of them, but at home this year they should beat West Indies and at least manage to draw against the South Africans. A testing year ahead and the first mission is Pakistan.