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Ajmal torments England

The Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal left the cream of England batting looking rueful in the first day of the Test series in Dubai. Ajmal’s baffling deliveries claimed seven England wickets and made England’s status as number one Test nation look strictly temporary.

Ajmal’s credentials had been talked up before the series, with particular attention paid to his mystery delivery, which he calls his teesra, Urdu for "the third one". Sceptics suggested it was all hype, but once the action got underway, Ajmal quickly disposed of Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen before lunch.

He continued his fine form in the afternoon, claiming the wickets of Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad, as England teetered close to embarrassment in the face of the Pakistan spinners. Ajmal even stirred himself to dismiss the tail, sending Chris Tremlett on his way with his doosra delivery, before finishing off the innings with James Anderson’s wicket.

Typically stubborn resistance from Matthew Prior and some adventurous shots from Graeme Swann restored a modicum of respectability to England’s innings total of 192. Prior, with 70, finished the innings unbeaten as England’s top scorer and only positive note on a disappointing first day.

Former captain Michael Vaughan’s analysis on Test Match Special suggested that England were struggling to play against a world-class spin bowler because, in 2011’s rise to dominance, they faced only poor or indifferent spinners.

In Ajmal they have met a formidable opponent, and his deliveries have been a shock to the system. England will have to find a Plan B, or Ajmal could win the series single-handedly.

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