England faces the daunting prospect of overcoming Pakistan’s new-look spinning line-up as the Ashes winners try to reverse their 3-0 test whitewash last time around on the dry pitches of the United Arab Emirates.
When They met in the United Arab Emirates in 2012, Pakistan annihilated the then world number one test team 3-0, thanks to spinners Saeed Ajmal (24 wickets) and Abdul Rahman (19 wickets). (Joe Root Braced for spin and Sun Challenge against Pakistan)
Pakistan is pinning their hopes on relative test novices Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar to cause England’s batsmen problems when the two countries renew a 51-year rivalry in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
England should be confident after reclaiming the Ashes on home soil this year with a 3-2 win over Australia, but Alastair Cook’s charges may also feel some trepidation after their last series against Pakistan in 2012 ended in a 3-0 whitewash.
Spin duo Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman were England’s tormentors back then, taking 43 wickets for an average of 15.6 runs, but they are absent this time so Shah and Babar will be Pakistan’s main spin threat in the three-test series.
- Saeed Ajmal
- Abdur Rehman
- Yasir Shah
- Zulfiqar Babar
- Younus Khan
Younis Kahan, Pakistan’s all-time third-highest run scorer, will be crucial to the host’s batting hopes especially after Azhar Ali was ruled out of the first test to injury.
Shah, 29, made his test debut last year and has since claimed 61 wickets in 10 matches including 24 against Sri Lanka in July. Babar, 36, has 42 wickets in 10 matches following his 2013 bow.
“The way he (Shah) is bowling he’s a threat to every team, he’s our strength,” said Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq, 41.
“To win a test match, a series, you can’t just focus on one bowler. Zulfiqar and the fast bowlers will play a key role because of the reverse swing, especially with the new ball.”
Younis Khan, Pakistan’s all-time third-highest run scorer, will be crucial to the host’s batting hopes especially after Azhar Ali was ruled out of the first test due to injury.
Most Pakistan players arrived in the UAE on Wednesday from a one-day series in Zimbabwe. The team opted for just one warm-up match, a sign of confidence about playing in their adopted UAE home where Pakistan remain unbeaten in seven series.
“Any away team these days seem to be the underdogs,” England coach Trevor Bayliss told reporters.
“Experience-wise, we’ve got some young players but players with a lot of ability and skill. There’s no reason why we can’t play some good cricket and if we play some good cricket we’ll be hard to beat.”
England coach Trevor Bayliss has indicated that Moeen Ali will open the batting when his side begins their Test against Pakistan.
The first of the three- match series gets under way on Tuesday and speculation had been Mounting as to who would open the batting alongside captain Alastair Cook, with Moeen and Alex hales both vying for the position.
Neither player really excelled with the bat during the final warm-up match against Pakistan A on Friday, with Moeen making just seven and 13 in his two innings and Hales scoring nine in his first outing of the tour.
After the match in Sharjah, Bayliss revealed that the Worcestershire man is likely to open the batting in the first Test, although he confirmed that a final decision has yet to be made by the selectors.
“We haven’t actually sat down and made a final decision – it’s a tough one – but I think more than likely [it will be] that way,” he said. “That’s probably giving something away there!”
Moeen is also expected to play a leading role with the ball in the United Arab Emirates and Bayliss confirmed that it will be a factor when the selection is made. “He’s obviously got to bowl as well, and we’ve got to take that into consideration,” he added.
The team for the first Test is set to be finalised in the coming days as England prepare to play their first series since they defeated Australia on home soil to regain the Ashes during the summer.
Joe Root, the world’s third-ranked batsman, will be England’s main scoring hope after many of the specialist batsmen struggled in the Ashes.
Only five England players remain from the 2012 mauling-
- Moeen Ali
- Ian Bell
- James Anderson
- Stuart Broad
- Steve Finn
All should make starting XL for the opening test in Abu Dhabi, Finn staking his claim with 4-16 in the final warm-up game against Pakistan A.