Skipper Alastair Cook has admitted that England’s batting fragility is worrying after his side succumbed to a 127-run defeat against Pakistan on the final day of their must-win final Test in Sharjah yesterday.
Resuming on 46-2, England’s middle-order wilted on a viciously turning pitch, losing four wickets for just 11 runs in the first hour of play, and eventually being routed for 156 as Pakistan claimed the series 2-0.
Cook and vice-captain Joe Root, with 90 and 57.40 respectively, were the only frontline England batsmen to average over 32 across the three Tests, although the recalled James Taylor averaged 39 from his two innings in Sharjah.
But more alarmingly, England’s No3 to No7 batsmen only managed eight runs between them yesterday, the fewest in 118 years, while their total second-innings collapse stood at six wickets for 25 runs. Six wickets were lost for 78 in the first.
“It’s a concern,” said Cook, whose side have slipped to No6 in the world Test rankings. “When we were No1 in the world we had a solid line-up but this side is in transition with new guys – very good players – coming in and finding their feet.
“We have to keep backing the guys but they have to keep working at their games and realise how tough international cricket is and how good you have to be to breakthrough into a consistent player.”
Principally under the spotlight is all-rounder Moeen Ali, after the 28-year-old endured a torrid time at the top of the batting order having been promoted to partner Cook. He averaged just 14 in the series.
England coach Trevor Bayliss has hinted that Ian Bell will retain his place ahead of England’s next Test assignment, a four-match winter series against South Africa, despite averaging just 26 in 13 Tests in 2015, although he admitted Moeen may not be so lucky.
“It didn’t go as we would have liked or how Mo would have liked,” said Bayliss. “I will sit down with the selectors in about a week’s time to discuss the team for South Africa and I’m sure that will be one of the top conversations.”
England now face four one-day internationals and three Twenty20 tussles against Pakistan, for which Durham seamer Mark Wood has been ruled out due to a long-standing ankle injury. Yorkshire’s Liam Plunkett has replaced him in England’s squad.