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Why the 444 v Pakistan was a long time coming

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Highlights - England seal series after record 444-3 (4:42)

England have produced some astonishing batting feats in one-day cricket over the last 18 months, but they surpassed even themselves at Trent Bridge as they plundered the highest total in ODI history to wrap up the series against Pakistan (4:42)

My first job after graduating from university was at a news channel where I was assigned to international news stories. Soon after I joined, news broke one day of the Palestinian political/militant group Hamas storming the offices of another Palestinian political/militant entity, Fatah. As someone who had been out of touch with developments in Palestine for a few years, I was shocked at the idea of a Palestinian civil war. Without knowing the context of the developments, the final outcome seemed rather out of the blue.

On Tuesday, as cricket fans across the world tuned in to the score England had put up in the third ODI against Pakistan, I sensed a similar feeling of incredulousness amongst some. How had Pakistan just conceded the largest score in the history of the international 50-over game? How had a side famed for its bowling done worse than even any Associate side had managed in ODIs? Seen from afar, it seemed completely out of the blue. Yet the seeds of this destruction were laid several years before.

It is generally agreed that it is Pakistan's batting that has let them down in recent times. Their bowling has always been seen as being among the better attacks in the world. But the reality is that Pakistan's bowling has been in a tailspin for a while now.

At the 2015 World Cup, Pakistan exited as one of the worst batting sides on display. But by defending small totals against South Africa and Zimbabwe, and then giving Australia a scare with another one, their bowling seemed to have left its mark on the tournament. In reality, though, its impact was captured symbolically by Wahab Riaz's much-celebrated spell against Shane Watson, which had little impact on the match and didn't lead to consistent performances for Wahab.

The death knell for Pakistan's bowling had been rung a year earlier, when the ICC began its crackdown on chucking. It led to bans on the world's No. 1- and No. 7-ranked ODI bowlers, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez.

From the 2011 World Cup till the bans, Pakistan's bowling had revolved around spin, with Ajmal the main threat and Hafeez and Shahid Afridi playing support. Junaid Khan was the main fast bowler, alongside Umar Gul and Mohammad Irfan. This spin-led attack ensured that Pakistan's win-loss record was fourth among the top ten sides for this period, and that their bowling averages and economy rates among the best.

Following Ajmal's and Hafeez's bans, Pakistan adopted a completely different policy, perhaps with one eye on the impending World Cup. The line-up became pace-heavy, with Afridi thrust in as the main spinner. Zulfiqar Babar was the only specialist spinner tried during this time. The results were disastrous - Pakistan only won three matches in 13, with their attack now boasting the worst average in the world, and among the worst economy rates too.

During the World Cup, Pakistan used pace to end up with the best bowling record outside the semi-finalists. But, bizarrely, they persisted with this pace-heavy set-up even after the tournament ended.

In the year and a half since then, Anwar Ali, Irfan and Wahab have bowled the most overs for Pakistan among fast bowlers, while the two most frequently used spinners have been Yasir Shah and Shoaib Malik. Yasir's phenomenal Test record has allowed him to play on despite average showings with the white ball, while Malik has been a part-timer. During this time, Pakistan have the second-worst bowling attack in the world in terms of averages - and that's including the Associates.

In the immediate aftermath of the bans, it might have made sense to play with an attack keeping the World Cup in mind, although even then the use of just one (woefully out of form) mainline spinner felt odd. Since then, however, the persistence with a pace-heavy attack has been absolutely baffling.

Venues in England are not ideal for playing with three spinners, but Pakistan also lack modern white-ball fast bowlers who have an armoury of cutters and slower ones. The one such exponent they tried, Imran Khan Jr, was hastily dropped after only three (unremarkable) T20I outings. Other than him, the young quick bowler Rumman Raees is the only other promising example.

All this has meant that Pakistan don't have the resources used by modern bowling attacks, and they have also refused to use the tactics that provided them with their most recent success.

In the summer of 2007, it took me a few weeks of research to understand that the conflict between Fatah and Hamas had been brewing for a long time and that the conditions had made it inevitable in many ways. Similarly, the 444 posted by England at Trent Bridge had been coming for a long time. And unless Pakistan start rethinking their tactics, this won't be the only bowling disaster they will have to live through.