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22 May 2024

England seek solution to Ajmal puzzle

By Reuters

England have been working overtime to solve the Saeed Ajmal riddle for the second test after being baffled by the Pakistan spinner in the opening match in Dubai.

The 34-year-old Ajmal, whose action has come under scrutiny, took seven wickets as England were skittled for 192 in their first innings last week and bagged 10 in the game as Pakistan went 1-0 up in the three-match series with a 10-wicket win.

His "doosra" ball caused particular havoc in the England order and the coaching staff have left no stone unturned in the build-up to the second test, which begins at Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium on Wednesday.

Batting coach Graham Thorpe has used data from the Decision Review System (DRS) to work out lengths bowled by spinners while England physio Ben Langley has been replicating Ajmal's deliveries by throwing the ball down from 20 metres.

"He's very good at it," opener Alastair Cook told reporters.

"Ben can land it quite well."

Much has been made in the British press of Ajmal's action and whether or not his arm straightens more than the permitted 15 degrees, but England batsman Jonathan Trott attempted to take the mystery out of the equation on Tuesday.

"He doesn't actually turn the ball a huge amount," he said in the Times. "It's just subtle variations, doing just enough to either take the edge or get an lbw.

"We have come across world-class spinners before and have scored runs. Our stats against spin aren't as bad as everyone is talking about."

Pakistan wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal had some sympathy for the England batsmen, saying he also found it hard to read Ajmal.

"I had some problems on Ajmal's doosra," he said. "Every time I keep wicket I watch his hand. It's only after a lot of practise that I'm doing better."

While much of the talk has been about Ajmal, England coach Andy Flower will expect a much more resolute performance from his batsman when play begins on Wednesday at a stadium which is a green oasis in the dusty suburbs of Abu Dhabi.

Flower said his world number one test side were under-cooked in the opening defeat and the focus will be on the likes of Cook, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen to start scoring some runs on a pitch which is usually batsman-friendly.

Pietersen scored just two runs in Dubai, Bell managed four and Cook eight.

"It's always nice when you turn up to a ground where history suggests you can score runs," added Cook, England's chief run amasser in the last two years. "But that doesn't really count for anything.

"We've got to go out and put our poor performance behind us. The beauty of another game so quickly is we can put that right, and I know we've got the characters and the record to do that."