Sunday, October 11, 2015


England face the worrying prospect of overcoming Pakistan's new-look spin line-up as the Ashes winners attempt to reverse the Test whitewash they suffered last time around toward the dry pitches of the Uae.
At the time they met inside the UAE in 2012, Pakistan annihilated what was then a world number one Test team 3-0, thanks to spinners saeed ajmal (24 wickets) and Abdul Rehman (19 wickets).
As they simply begin a three-match Test series in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, Pakistan will rely on precisely the same weapon -- but in the hands of leg-spinners yasir shah and Zulfiqar Babar, who have taken over from Ajmal and Rehman.
England captain cook admits the magnitude of his team's task.
"I think they have played six or seven series and haven't lost a series. That shows what is before us. The great thing in Test cricket is attempting to succeed far from home. It's becoming more difficult and harder," said Cook, one of four survivors considering the 2012 series.
Ajmal, whose controversial bowling action was questioned around the time of 2012, was suspended a year ago. He was cleared after adopting a brand new style but seems to own lost his wicket-taking ability, leaving his career within the balance.
"I don't think (Ajmal's absence) weakens or strengthens them, anyway. It's always whenever you play Pakistan, India or Sri Lanka, spin plays a role," Cook said.
- Outstanding start -
Pakistan skipper misbah is confident Shah will fill the void, having led the nation to series wins over Australia in Abu Dhabi last year and in Sri Lanka three months period ago.
"The way Yasir is bowling he is a threat to any team," said Misbah, who can retire by the end of the series. "But it's not only about our spinners. It's also about our fast bowlers plus the way we bat against their spinners."
Cook admitted Shah poses various challenges.
"He has an excellent begin to his Test career," said Cook. "Sixty wickets in ten games is a great effort and obviously Saeed was a great bowler as well as."
Pakistan's batting will involve Younis Khan, Misbah and sarfraz, who have been in great form over the last twelve months.
Younis amassed 468 runs against Australia and hit a match-winning 171 not out in Pakistan's last Test in Sri Lanka, leaving him just 19 behind to overtake Pakistan's highest tally of 8,832 set by Javed Miandad.
Pakistan will certainly be without key batsman azhar ali who was excluded due to a foot infection, a physical injury which forced him to miss the third and final one-dayer against Zimbabwe last week.
His place is likely to go to malick, who has not played a Test for five years.
Pakistan have been forced to participate with the UAE from security fears back home though have never lost a sequence here, winning four and drawing three.
England's answer to Pakistan's spin challenge would probably be underwhelming. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid is set to make his Test debut, six years after playing his first one-day international.
Moeen Ali is favourite to play as opener in a makeshift arrangement, with additional duties of bowling off-spin, despite never having opened the innings even in a first-class match.
If that happens, Moeen will probably be Cook's seventh partner since strauss retired in 2012.
Joe Root and stokes -- England's leading performers in the bat -- will probably be tested against quality spin.
Dubai will host the second Test (October 22-26), with the final match in Sharjah (November 1-5).

Umpires: Bruce Oxenford (AUS) and Paul Reiffel (AUS)
TV umpire: Sundaram Ravi (IND)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)

tags: pakistan | england | cricket | uae | cricket | 2015 | spinner | october | november