England's batsmen undid the good work of Monty Panesar to record an abject loss against Pakistan, with Kevin Pietersen once again unable to grasp the mantle of responsibility.
Seemingly on the cusp of levelling their Persian Gulf series against Pakistan, England's spinners revelled in the sun on the third and fourth days of the second Test. Monty Panesar claimed six and Graeme Swann two of the scalps as their hosts were reduced to 214 all out, leaving England with 145 to win. Then the batsmen collapsed to prompt nostalgia for the bad old days of the 90s.
Inevitably the debate as to whether Panesar should have started the first Test in Dubai recurred, with England's selectors criticised for not respecting the dry sub-continent wicket. Injury to Chris Tremlett ensured that Panesar's return to the Test fold was certified, whilst sparing the blushes of Kevin Pietersen in the process.
Yet Panesar's absence last week wasn't a mistake, despite the conditions. It was Saeed Ajmal's majestic display that heaped criticism on to the ECB as he took ten wickets over both innings and bamboozled the majority of England's top order, not the inconspicuous absence of the Luton-born 'Turbanator'. Panesar had not played at the five-day level since the opening Test match of the 2009 Ashes series in Cardiff, and his form prior to the Australians' tour had been erratic. Captain Andrew Strauss had already turned to Swann as the team's premier spinner.
Subsequently Swann has emerged as arguably the finest spin bowler in world cricket. Instrumental in England's ascension to the top of the international rankings - which of course included two Ashes series victories and a 4-0 whitewash over then number one Test side India, he is undeniably indispensable.
Pietersen, on the other hand, habitually irks his knockers and admirers. Cavalier and rash, his dismissal in the second innings in this series' preceding Test was all-too-familiar. A pulled shot off of a short delivery to deep square-leg was unforgivable and needless showmanship when a positive result remained feasible.
Chris Gayle,has not played a Test match since December 2010 and his lackadaisical approach suggests a return is unlikely. Sound familiar?
Far from the sole offender against Pakistan, there is growing disenchantment with the South Africa-born batsman. His unrivalled ego vexes team-mates who may have hoped for a display of modesty after his disastrous tenure as captain under coach Peter Moores, and he is fast becoming a liability in non-limited overs cricket, despite a 49.06 batting average and fruitful 2011.
Maybe it is Pietersen who is disenchanted. He has joined the Delhi Daredevils ahead of the forthcoming India Premier League season, and his growing impatience in cricket whites may pave the way for further money-spinners as one-dayers continue to generate a greater cash flow than their five-fold competitor. The West Indies' Chris Gayle, another maverick batsman, has not played a Test match since December 2010 after a feud with the West Indian Cricket Board, and his lackadaisical approach suggests a return is unlikely. Sound familiar?
Had Eoin Morgan offered more than a measly 3 runs in both innings in Abu Dhabi, his position would have been fortified, despite doubts chiefly aired by Geoffrey Boycott. Only 25, the Dubliner has time on his side despite reservations over his suitability, but his 'reverse reverse sweep' identifies him as the heir to Pietersen. Minus the arrogance.
A grand total of 15 runs in two innings in Abu Dhabi will nevertheless intensify the pressure on Pietersen. Coach Andy Flower insisted that ‘we won't be afraid to do that (drop batsmen)’ ahead of the third Test, as the world’s best side at the format seek to avoid a humiliating whitewash. Although dropping Morgan is likelier, making Pietersen the fall guy would send out the stronger signal that recklessness won’t be countenanced. Clichéd it may be, but sustaining success is invariably tougher than reaching the summit, but has Pietersen the appetite to want any more?
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