England coach, Andy Flower, has lamented his team's recent loss to Pakistan as a "proper reality check" for the Rankings-topping outfit. A subdued and "undercooked" England, to quote Flower, were dispatched by ten wickets in the United Arab Emirates, over the course of three days.
The loss was, perhaps, inevitable. England had not played an international fixture, Test or otherwise, since October 2011, when they won a Twenty20 match against India. Their most recent Test was contested in August; an innings and eight run victory over India, at the Oval in Kennington.
In other words, Andrew Strauss' boys had gone five months without playing a Test match, and three months without any experience of international cricket, at all. Add in the obligatory festive hijinks over the Christmas period, and England, on paper, should have been in sorry shape in Dubai. People looking to make a best cricket bet online should remember this.
Unfortunately, they were; England's batting was described as "woeful" by the BBC. The visitors' dour performance at the crease was exacerbated by a stunning bowling display from Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal, who took three wickets in five balls on the first day. Ajmal dismissed seven players with lbw calls, overall, a new record.
"If there were any thoughts of complacency, they have been banished", Flower said. "We weren't on the ball and weren't sharp enough to deal with what Pakistan challenged us with in this game." The coach added that England simply could not cope with Ajmal and his cohort, spin-bowler, Umar Gul.
England have a lot of work to do before the second Test against Pakistan, which begins on January 25 in Abu Dhabi. Flower told the BBC that England's batters would practise with a versatile bowling machine called 'Merlyn', over the next few days, in a bid to overcome the threat posed by Ajmal.