Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal flummoxed England’s batsmen with his off-spin for a career best haul of seven for 55 to dismiss the visitors for 192 on the first day of the opening test in Dubai on Tuesday.
Ajmal, whose previous best figures were 6-42, bagged his fifth five-wicket haul in tests as England were shot out in the last session of the day.
“Best bowling against England, best batting against England, I’m happy. They’re the number one team,” Ajmal, who was ready to come in as nightwatchman in the event of a wicket, said. “I just tried to bowl line and length and bowl at middle stump. The ball was a little bit low.”
England were reduced to 94 for seven at one stage before Matt Prior (70 not out) and Graeme Swann (34) stemmed the rot with a defiant 57-run stand for the eighth wicket.
England captain Andrew Strauss had no hesitation in opting to bat first on what appeared to be a good batting pitch but was soon left to rue his decision as his batsmen crumbled to some smart bowling.
The pitch did not offer much turn for the spinners but it was enough for the wily Ajmal, who mixed his top-spinners and doosras to perfection.
Ajmal, the leading wicket-taker in Tests last year, struck immediately after he was introduced in the 19th over when he dismissed Strauss (19) after the captain played across the line to a straight delivery and was clean bowled. Ian Bell (0) and Kevin Pietersen (2) fell in the space of four deliveries in Ajmal’s next over, both fooled by the off-spinner's doosra.
Eoin Morgan tried to unsettle the off-spinner but was out lbw (24) attempting the same shot. Stuart Broad, who has often managed to bail England out off tricky situations, fell to Ajmal in a similar fashion for eight. Resuming the final session at 139-7, Prior and Swann continued to rebuild England's awful start but ultimately found Ajmal too hot to handle.