Pakistan offspinner Saeed Ajmal was in mesmerizing form on Tuesday, taking career—best figures of 7—55 as England was bowled out for 192 before his team’s openers reached 42—0 at stumps on the first day of the first test.
Ajmal won five lbw decisions after England won the toss and elected to bat first at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, with Matt Prior’s gritty knock of 70 to rescue his top—ranked team from a precarious 94—7 the sole innings of substance.
Pakistan openers Mohammad Hafeez (22) and Taufeeq Umar (18) saw off 15 overs in the last hour of the day without too many problems in facing England’s three seamers or lone spinner Graeme Swann.
England’s supporters dominated the crowd of about 1,500 people that watched a long list of batsman fail miserably to counter Ajmal’s variety of deliveries.
Captain Andrew Strauss (19), Ian Bell (0) and Kevin Pietersen (2) departed within five of Ajmal’s deliveries before lunch as England limped to 52—5.
Ajmal had promised to unveil a mystery delivery but that wasn’t required on the opening day of the three—test series. However, the hype created by the offspinner appeared as if it played on the minds of English batsmen.
After polishing off the top order before lunch, Ajmal trapped Eoin Morgan (24) and Stuart Broad (8) lbw as both failed in their attempts to sweep the last year’s top wicket—taker in test cricket.
It could have been 46—6 but Morgan escaped a stumping chance off Ajmal just before the break. Ajmal continued to baffle the England batsman, and when he trapped last man James Anderson lbw he eclipsed his previous best of 6—42 against West Indies last year.
Prior added 57 precious runs for the eighth wicket with Swann (27) before leftarm spinner Abdur Rehman broke the stand and closed England’s innings with two more wickets.
Earlier, Strauss and Alastair Cook watchfully played out new ball bowlers Umar Gul and Aizaz Cheema before Pakistan captain Misbah—ul—Haq called up his spinners in only the sixth over.
Hafeez responded in his very first over when Cook tried to cut the offspinner’s third delivery and was caught behind by Adnan Akmal.
Akmal took another brilliant acrobatic catch down the leg side off fast bowler Aizaz Cheema’s short delivery, which claimed a thick edge of Jonathan Trott’s (17) bat.
But it was the introduction of Ajmal midway into the first session that hurried the England collapse.
Strauss recklessly tried to pull Ajmal’s fifth delivery only to knock back his off stump, then Bell attempted to defend Ajmal’s straight delivery and thinly edged to Akmal.
Pietersen also struggled through 29 deliveries before Ajmal won the lbw decision thanks to the Decision Review System after onfield Australian umpire Ben Oxenford had originally turned down a loud appeal.
England opted to go in with three seamers James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett and may miss left—arm spinner Monty Panesar.
Panesar had impressed in a warmup match but England preferred Tremlett, who is playing his first test since recovering from a back injury last August.
It is the first clash between the teams since a controversial 2010 series in which three Pakistan players were charged and later jailed in England for spot—fixing.
Keywords: Saeed Ajmal