England must learn lessons from their test series defeat to Pakistan

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After the test series against Pakistan in the UAE finishes in a 2-0 defeat, England will need to return to the drawing board if they want success on their tour to South Africa, which begins next month.

England started the third and final test with three spinners instead of the series average of two, which initially seemed a smart selection, but had little impact on the result.

Samit Patel provided more use with bat than ball, while Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid both struggled to be either threatening or economical over the course of the series.


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Rashid's five-wicket haul in the second test showed his clear potential as a leg spinner, but issues still remain. Does Alastair Cook know how to get the best out of a leg spinner? The jury is still out. While other selection decisions have backfired over the course of this series.

Choosing Ali as opener always had the sense of a temporary shift and so it may prove, with the batsman struggling throughout the series, averaging just 14. Yet again England need to rethink their strategy and find an alternative choice to open the batting.

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Whether Ali keeps his place in the team will be interesting, as where he now fits in could be difficult, with James Taylor performing well in the third test and showing his ability batting against spin, but one would imagine past performances would provide him with another opportunity.

Ali's biggest weakness is the short ball, which may well see him miss out against South Africa, who will likely provide pitches with bounce, carry and pace to complement their strong bowling attack. This is probably good news for England's bowlers also, with Broad and Anderson likely to get some joy themselves on hard wickets.

Jonny Bairstow is the other selection dilemma facing captain Cook and coach Trevor Bayliss. Moved into a wicket-keeping role in the final match his batting has been competent, but his standard of wicket-keeping has not matched that expected in test cricket.

In recent times England have had a knack of developing wicket-keeper's, such as Jos Butler and Matt Prior, so the question is whether to turn back to the out-of-form Butler or stick with Bairstow and hope he can improve.

England cannot afford to give anything away to a hugely talented South Africa team, especially away from home. This series against Pakistan has yet again left England with more questions than answers. What is certain is that trying to predict their best team for test match cricket is becoming increasingly difficult.

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