Prior sidesteps row over Ajmal action after England collapse

ENGLAND wicketkeeper Matt Prior refused to become embroiled in a debate concerning the legitimacy of Saeed Ajmal’s action after the Pakistan spinner’s seven-wicket haul ensured the tourists face an uphill struggle to save the first Test following the first day’s play in Dubai.

Familiar failings against spin were exposed by the 34-year-old Ajmal, who recorded Test best figures of 7-55, as England slumped to 192 all out having won the toss and elected to make first use of a pitch that offered the bowlers only minimal assistance.

Ajmal, who ripped out the heart of England’s top order by accounting for Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan, had his action referred to, and cleared by, the International Cricket Council in 2009.

Sky television pundit and former England skipper Bob Willis yesterday raised fresh concerns about the way Ajmal delivers his doosra, but Prior insists England should be more concerned with their own technique, rather than that of their most recent spin nemesis.

Asked directly about Ajmal’s action, Prior, who top scored with an unbeaten 70, said: “It’s not something we’re concerned about, it’s not something we talk about in the dressing room – it’s got nothing to do with us. If other people want to pull up on it, that’s up to them.

“We played a few cross-batted shots when maybe you needed to play straight. I was playing very straight, pretty watchful, and I think that’s maybe the way we have to look at it.

“It’s all well and good going out and trying to get on top of the bowlers. Recently we’ve played a lot of cricket where the ball’s come on and you can score at a rate. This is just a reminder that cricket on the subcontinent is slightly more attritional, and you have to play the long game.”

Pakistan’s openers survived 15 overs and reached 42-0 by the close as all four of England’s front-line bowlers failed to make an impact.

Even though the tourists would appear to have been placed firmly behind the eight ball, Prior insists his team are capable to gaining a foothold in the match.

“Obviously today has not gone as we wanted,” he said. “But it’s not all over – we can’t just give it up now. We’ve got a huge day tomorrow, and we’re very confident we can pull something out of this game.

“The great thing is that this team’s been in tough positions and fought our way back. We’ve won and saved Test matches from this position.”