Having won the Ashes this summer, England head out to the UAE to face an in-form Pakistan, in what promises to be a challenging series to say the least. England’s record in the UAE is not one to gloat over, the last time they visited the UAE they were white washed 3-0 and crossed 300 runs only on one occasion, in the same test they were then bowled out for 72. Getting bowled out for 192, 160,141 and 252 in the remaining four innings, losing the bulk of their wickets to spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman (the two collectively had 43 scalps in the series). England’s frailty against spin is no secret, their middle order struggled to cope with Nathan Lyon’s off spin over the summer and it remains to be seen how they counter the threat of Yasir Shah, who has picked up 61 wickets in his first 10 test matches, becoming the fastest Pakistani bowler to the 50 wicket mark.
England will need their most experienced players to come through for them, Alastair Cook and Ian Bell, who have previously toured the UAE will have to slog it out in the searing heat. Cook has shown his resilience in similar conditions, when England toured India in 2012/13 and won the 4 match series 2-1, by scoring 562 runs in 8 innings at an average of 80 but England had a more experienced middle order then, in Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Matt Prior. England do not have the luxury of experience this time, having only Joe Root in their middle order who has played more than 20 tests. England have brought in Mahela Jayawardene as their batting coach, to help the batsmen cope with the conditions they will be facing in the UAE.
With uncertainty surrounding the second openers slot ever since the retirement of Andrew Strauss, England have tried several in that position to no avail and this time around they look to Moeen Ali. Captain Alastair Cook and Coach Trevor Bayliss have backed Moeen Ali and said that he will open in the first game, which will allow England to field an additional all-rounder in the lower order. Hales will also get his opportunity to prove himself, England will be hoping that he can add some impetus at the top of the order and play a role like Marcus Trescothick once did for them.
In contrast Pakistan have their middle order led by batting stalwarts in the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-Ul- Haq, who will look to make England toil in the field and will target the England spin duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. The fact that England had to revert to batting all-rounder, Samit Patel, as their third spinner once the 20 years Zafar Ansari got injured goes to show the sorry state of spin bowling in the English county circuit. Pakistan will look to capitalize on the fact that this is an experimental spin bowling line up; England will be banking on their seamers and their ability to get reverse swing on the dry UAE pitches.
Touring Asia is considered the toughest challenge for an English batsman, and coming up against a Pakistan side who are arguably the toughest to beat at home. England will by no means be favorites but as they have shown in recent times, they thrive as the underdogs, and this will be a learning curve if nothing else for the young England side.