In the poem, the writer Jessie Pope urges England's boys to join the fight against Germany and her allies on neutral soil in Belgium and France. To read it now seems incredibly irresponsible and still rankles with many, much like Kevin Pietersen's shot selection. In ninety years, maybe we (well not me, I'll probably have already choked on my own pessimism) will look back on tomorrow's match and shout "WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST GO HOME AND SAVE THEMSELVES?!"
Prior to the series, Pakistan legend Ramiz Raja urged the "home" side to treat the upcoming series like a "war". I'm sure he had some sort of siege in mind, like the Alamo or that cool scene in Lord of the Rings where the baddies get killed by those green dead people. As it happens, it's starting to look a bit like the Battle of the Somme.
In that battle, British soldiers were forced to walk slowly into a barrage of bullets. Tomorrow they will have to walk (probably literally, I don't see them hanging around long) into the line of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman's fire. In the last test, the two spinners combined to deadly effect as England capitulated. I actually laughed, but it was that little British laugh we all do, when something annoys us, but we take pleasure in being annoyed, because it gives us something to moan about...like tuition fees, the council's new parking scheme or Justin Bieber.
The strange thing about this series is that Pakistan actually have only four players. They could probably justify fielding just Ajmal, Rehman, all-rounder Mohammed Hafeez and captain Misbah-Ul-Haq. No-one else has done anything for Pakistan, they haven't had to, England have had no answer to their bowlers grenade's or their captain's defiance with the bat. Hafeez has been a bit like trench-foot for England. He probably won't kill you, but he does just enough to piss you off and ensure you get a bad start and then, two days later, you wonder how it all went so badly. Note: I've never had trench foot, but I did have to walk outside in just my socks (and other clothes, behave) yesterday and it was really horrific, so I can empathise.
The strange thing is, England's bowling has actually been pretty good. The bowlers are blameless in this massacre and I feel kinda sorry for them. Each time they have bowled, Pakistan have struggled to score runs or bat for very long, and have stuttered to mediocre scores. Then England get out for about 9 runs. Stuart Broad said in the last match that how England bowl means nothing unless they bat well. His statement raised eyebrows at first, but he proved himself right by rescuing England with the bat and then helped to bowl his side into a position of superiority. Then England got out for about 9 runs.
So here's my in-depth analysis and detailed advice.
PROBLEM ONE: England can't play spin.
Yeah, we're pretty hopeless at it. Pakistan's bowling is made up entirely of spinners. Yeah, they have two fast bowlers in there somewhere, but they're there to make up the numbers. It's a bit like South Africa's quota system, only England don't benefit. Why are England rubbish against spin? I dunno. I mean I don't. If I knew, I'd be good at cricket. However, all the clever people say something about not having good footwork. So England just need to improve their footwork and they'll score loads of sixes and win by super-mad margins yeah.
PROBLEM TWO: They didn't prepare well.
Well, they kinda did. They had two practice games against decent opposition and then the first test match to gauge just how sh*t they were. Think of it like playing FIFA on a different console for the first time. You go two-nil down before saying "ahhh I've got the hang of this now" before losing 6-1.
PROBLEM THREE: I ran out of World War One analogies four paragraphs ago.
Doug, if you want to be the best, you've got to pummel your readers with metaphors until they beg for mercy. So here's one. Think of this series like England launching shell after shell at the Pakistani trenches. For all their effort and power, they can only incur limited damage. Then Pakistan release mustard gas and England choke to death/get out for about 9 runs. In short, England just don't have the mystery or strength in defence to keep Pakistan out.
So there you have it, England are playing tomorrow and are probably going to lose. AND I DIDN'T MENTION THAT THEY ARE WORLD NUMBER ONE!..until then. I should give up, and say what will be will be, but I'll probably still not be able to sleep, knowing in the back of my mind that England will be playing when I wake up. I will then switch on my radio at half past seven to words like "it's not been a good start for England" or "Ajmal, looking for his tenth wicket, bowls to Panesar" or "Goodness me, there's a pigeon". Let's hope we can restore some pride, start well and build a trench around our wickets.