DUBAI // England were warned. Their previously insatiable batsmen were flummoxed by Saeed Ajmal on the opening day of their Test series in the UAE yesterday – and the Pakistan off-spinner has not even had to resort to his new mystery delivery yet.
Ajmal’s pre-series warning about his “teesra” might well be, as England’s players suggested in the lead up to the Test, thinly-veiled subterfuge, but he managed sufficiently well without it.
On a first day pitch at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium which did not offer noticeably significant turn, Ajmal took a career best haul of seven for 55, as the world’s No 1 Test side faltered.
“The ‘teesra’ will be coming in next few innings,” Ajmal repeated at the close of play.
“I’m very happy as this was the best performance of my life, and I’m determined to do well in the rest of the series.
“England are the No 1 team. It was a good day for me and a bad one for them, which happens in cricket. They are all good players.”
Although these two teams have been at pains to distance themselves from the animosity of the past, their first meeting since the fateful Lord’s Test of 2010 was not allowed to pass entirely without incident.
While Ajmal was enjoying his best day in Test cricket, Bob Willis, the former England captain, apparently queried the legitimacy of his bowling action on Sky TV back in the UK.
It is not the first time Ajmal has suffered such suspicion while playing in Dubai.
Back in 2009, when the stadium at Sports City was first opened, he was reported because of doubts over his doosra.
He was sent to Australia for tests on his bowling action, and was subsequently cleared to carry on bowling by the International Cricket Council.
“It is absolutely no problem,” Ajmal said. “I’m just concentrating on my bowling, it is the umpires’ and referee’s responsibility to see if there is anything wrong with my action.
“Such questions were raised against Saqlain Mushtaq [the former Pakistan spinner] as well, and he has been playing county cricket and there was no problem with his action.”
Nothing could puncture Ajmal’s mood of delight. He took great satisfaction in the fact four of his wickets were those of left-handers – Andrew Strauss, Eoin Morgan, Stuart Broad and James Anderson – which he said would quieten some doubting voices.
Matt Prior, England’s wicketkeeper-batsman, ploughed a lone furrow for the away team, as he ended unbeaten on 70.
The Sussex gloveman said his side had been given an early reality check, but remains convinced they can force their way back into the series.
“It was a reminder that subcontinental cricket is more attritional, and that you have to play the long game,” Prior said.
“It’s not lost on us that it hasn’t gone well for us. It is not panic stations.
“We are still positive we can get something from this game.”
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younus Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Chris Tremlett
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