A young Pakistan side still learning the ropes got whacked by Australia at Lord’s but then took the lesson to heart and bounced back to beat the baggy green caps at Headingley.
But the team doing the hardest studying of how the neutral series progressed will have been England.
The innovation of London and Leeds playing host to Tests without a domestic team gave Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower the chance for a close-up look at their next two opponents – both teams in transition, and both capable of careering from disastrous to devastating.
Pakistan lost the Lord’s Test by 150 runs, with captain Shahid Afridi retiring from Test cricket – again – on a BBC commentator’s microphone straight after the fall of the last wicket. The youthful Salman Butt, Pakistan’s top scorer in the match, was promoted to replacement captain.
Mohammad Aamer, just 18, reminded spectators of a bygone era when Pakistan had another fast left-arm swing bowler, bowled beyond his years and belied his inexperience.
Pakistan in a nail-biting finish beat Australia by three wickets in the 2nd Test at Headingley. Having bowled out Australia out for 88 in the first innings, again with some excellent fast bowling by Amir Asif and Umar Gul.
Requiring just 40 to win in the final innings on the fourth morning and seven wickets remaining, Pakistan nearly threw it all way when the pressure began to mount for the inexperienced squad. Keeper Kamran Akmal steadied things and guided them to a three wicket win, their first Test win against Australia for 15 years. Again Butt contributed with the bat. Aamer was made man of the series for his exploits with the ball.
On Thursday morning a four-game rubber against Pakistan starts at Trent Bridge with a flight to Australia to try and retain the Ashes for the first time since 1987-88 looming just a few months away.
The chapter headings of any revision notes being handed round the England class will read: Fragile batting - hard-hitting but not always long-lasting; Young inexperienced captain; and in block capitals - WATCH THE BOWLERS.
For the batting, get past Butt, Imran Farhat and Azhar Ali and things get interesting. Butt was the only one of his team to get past 50 (twice in his case) at Headingley, and no Pakistani in the series made a century. Then again neither did any Aussie.
Pakistan are without experienced batsmen Mohammed Yousuf and Younus Khan and will have more of the difficulty in coping with English conditions seen in the Australia series.
Though there has been talk of bringing them back in, Pakistan are likely to stick with Ali and Umar Amin at three and four, respectively, unless something along the lines of a big batting disaster occurs.
But Pakistan are rightly trying out new blood and moving away from using the old and tried.
Umar Akmal did not have good series against Australia as he was not playing his natural attacking game which is more suited to the shorter formats of the game.
Butt was thrown into the captaincy after Afridi’s high-powered immolation at Lord’s. He marshalled his bowlers well, but that wasn’t hard when they were swinging it in the first innings and making many Aussies look like novices themselves. But defensive fields (from fear of losing?) and an attack that went off the boil in the second innings let Australia nudge and scamper their way back into contention.
And then there are the bowlers. After impressing at Lord’s, the lauded Aamer, Asif and Gul used the ball at Headingley like a yoyo on a string, swinging it both ways at pace, extravagantly and late, conventionally and reverse, and making use of the seam. No insult intended but they look like a darned good traditional England attack making hay while the Leeds sun didn’t shine.
England playing at home have become a formidable opponent though they will find Pakistan’s bowling attack much stronger than their last opposition Bangladesh.
England have not picked the in form Ravi Bopara opting to give Eoin Morgan an extended run in the absence of Ian Bell, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken metatarsal. Pietersen has not played any county cricket since his last Test. He is leaving Hampshire at the end of the season, so will be rusty but should enjoy the challenge of the ball coming onto bat in the drier conditions of the latter part of the summer.
England have also retained Steven Finn but lost the injured Ajmal Shazhad. The pair together would have given Strauss two fast bowlers not afraid to bounce one to batsman’s throat, and both bowl mid to late 80s on the speed gun.
Strauss and Cook will most likely open but the danger man to watch out for will be Morgan, a difficult proposition for any bowler on his day, with his knack of playing the most extraordinary shots.
Matthew Prior is also back with his more reliable reliable glove work and may have to also contribute with the bat if Pakistan’s bowlers dominate like they did against Australia.
Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann will be seen as the main spearheads in the bowling attack, Collingwood as the gentle slow medium pacer if required.
England also have Mushtaq Ahmed’s guile and experience within their coaching set-up. He more than most will know how this Pakistan team ticks, as two of his former playing colleagues now handle the main coaching and bowling assistant coach duties: Waqar Younus and Aaquib Javed, the former Hampshire bowler.
Pakistan have nothing to worry about in the bowling department - they seem to churn them out regularly - the main four being Amir, Asif and Gul, with Danish Kaneria offering the spin option. All four had a good series against Australia but conditions in the latter part of the summer will most likely suit the spinners, so a call up for Saeed Ajmal may not seem too distant.
All in all Pakistan will be a tough proposition but England, with home advantage and more used to the conditions, should overcome, but they can expect some resilience after the defeat of Australia.
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