Despite being deemed as favourites to win the Third Test against Pakistan after two days of play in which England were 12 runs adrift of their opponent’s score 234 runs with six wickets remaining, the final sessions demonstrated the failings of the English team in both batting application and spin bowling with the Pakistan team eventually claiming victory by 127 runs to win the series 2-0.
England had resumed their first innings in confident mood but those hopes soon evaporated when James Taylor departed after adding just two runs to his overnight score of 74. Only 84 runs were scored by the English batsmen before the tail-enders were dismissed by the Pakistan bowlers, and there was a sense that their lead of 72 was another missed opportunity although Adil Rashid did offer some resistance on the third day with a score of 42.
Mohammad Hafeez then dominated the England bowlers during the Pakistan second innings by scoring 151 runs in an overall total 355 but there was criticism of the English bowling and fielding during that fourth day. There were two dropped catches plus a missed stumping and on a wicket offering sufficient turn, ineffective spin bowling allowed Pakistan to build a lead of 283 runs before their innings closed. An eighth wicket partnership of 35 proved particularly problematical for the England team.
During the final 22 overs of the fourth day, England were reduced to 46-2 with Moeen Ali dismissed for 22 and Ian Bell departing without scoring. With 238 runs required for victory, it was suggested that a thrilling fifth day could materialise especially as 238, 218, 230 and 253 runs had been scored on the previous four days.
Yet the final day was characterised by a familiar England batting collapse as four wickets tumbled for eleven runs at one stage. Ben Stokes batted bravely with a shoulder problem to score 12 runs but only skipper Alastair Cook produced anything resembling decent form by scoring 63 runs in a English total of just 156. The England batsmen were unable to cope with spinners Shoaib Malik, Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar who demonstrated the art of such bowling compared to the more indifferent contributions of Samit Patel, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.
There will be inquests into the England performance but there will be questions as to why Moeen Ali was promoted to opening batsman when others are more accustomed to that role. What does that selection infer about the aptitude of current English openers?
Several further issues of worth considering. When Joe Root fails as per his scores of 4 and 6 in the final test, there appears to be no genuine back-up among the batsmen, although James Taylor did show some promise after being ignored for three years and the injury to Ben Stokes was a blow. A lack of quality in the English spin bowling was also much in evidence on a favourable pitch during the final test with fast bowling stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad proving more effective.
As England contemplate their forthcoming tour of South Africa, the selectors now face the problem of restoring confidence into the test match squad following the euphoria of the summer Ashes victory against Australia.