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The England Cricket team head off to UAE at the end of September to prepare for a tour against Pakistan, which will include three five-day test matches, four one-day internationals and three Twenty20 games. We’re concentrating on the test series here, and it will be a tough ask for England to conquer Pakistan, having been whitewashed 3-0 when they last toured (also in UAE) in 2012.
It’s been a turbulent year all round for the England side, and despite retaining the Ashes against Australia, there is still a fragile feel about the side. This was most evident in the ODI series when England rallied superbly to claw their way back from 2-0 down to level the series, only to tamely hand the initiative and the victory to Australia in the 5th ODI. They land in UAE on 30th September and will have a couple of warm-up games against Pakistan A in Sharjah before heading to Abu Dhabi for the 1st test on 13th October.
England’s Inconsistent Year
England have had a remarkable year where they’ve swung from the sublime to the ridiculous, and it’s often difficult to predict which ‘team’ will turn up on the day. They were humiliated at the Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and failed to produce in the tour of the West Indies where they were expected to win. They put that behind them to a degree with the ODI series win over New Zealand, and banished it to distant memory by beating Australia 3-2 to regain the Ashes.
However, the latest ODI defeat to Australia highlighted England’s soft underbelly as just when they looked to be in the ascendancy they shot themselves in the foot and gifted the Aussies a modicum of revenge. We highlighted Australia’s chances in that five-game series, and all looked good for the tourists after taking the first two games. We switched our attention to England for the next two matches, which they duly won, but the deciding game at Old Trafford was an 8-wicket thrashing.
There’s plenty of optimism in the camp though, with coach Trevor Bayliss pointing to an exciting future for England, at least for the one-day side, and Ian Bell hailing the impact that former Sri Lanka batsman, Mahela Jayawardene, will have on the team when he joins the coaching staff on the tour in UAE. Bell is quoted as describing the appointment as “brilliant” and has said he will badger the recently-retired batsman for advice. While admitting that England need to improve on the subcontinent, he said that Jayawardene’s experience will be vital. The Sri Lanka batsman scored 11,814 runs in 149 tests and 12,650 runs in 448 one-day internationals.
History Against England
History is against England however, and the 3-0 whitewash in 2012 was a resounding victory for Pakistan. The previous test, which was held in Pakistan in 2005/06, resulted in a 2-0 win for the hosts, and you have to go back to 2000/01 for England’s last tour win, when they won one test with two matches drawn. England have had the better of recent Twenty20 and one-day meetings, however, so they will hope to put that superiority to use here.
Pakistan have certainly turned things around this year after the 3-0 whitewash they suffered at the hands of Bangladesh in the ODI series earlier in the year, beating the same side in the test series, and beating Zimbabwe in ODI and Twenty20 series’ and Sri Lanka in both test and ODI series.
Conditions to Suit Pakistan
They should also have conditions to suit on the slower pitches in UAE, and all signs point to England struggling this Autumn. Both Mohammad Amir and Saeed Ajmal have been omitted from the Pakistan squad for the series, despite both enjoying success against England over the years and averaging less than 20 with the ball against them in tests. Ajmal has been struggling to recapture his form after his return to the game following a ban for an illegal bowling action, while Amir is available after his ban for spot-fixing, but has simply not been selected.
Ajmal in particular was instrumental in the 3-0 whitewash of 2012, finishing as the series top wicket-taker with 24. Amir is the youngest player ever to have reached 50 test wickets, but he has only played Twenty20 cricket since his return to the game earlier this year after the 2010 ban. They’ve been replaced by Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar as Pakistan’s two first-choice spin bowlers, and it’s those two that could do England the most damage on pitches ready-made for spinners.
Englad called up Surrey’s Zafar Ansari for his potential test debut, but the all-rounder suffered an injury just hours later when he dislocated his thumb while fielding for Surrey against Lancashire in a County Championship match. It’s a bitter blow for the Left-arm spinner, who was called up to provide a third spin option behind Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, and it remains to be seen if he will make the series. It’s even more heart-breaking for the player who made his ODI debut for England against Ireland in a match that was rained off before he had a chance to bat or bowl.
Ultimately the conditions in UAE will suit Pakistan much more than England, and we saw in the Ashes just how much difference the pitch can make. Australia were well-documented in their complaints about the wickets being prepared to suit England, and although the English camp denies any foul-play, it’s hardly uncommon for teams to prepare a pitch to play to their own strengths. Pakistan may not use the same tactics, and they probably won’t need to. The pitches in UAE will be plenty slow enough for the spin bowlers, but Pakistan’s batsmen are much better equipped to deal with them.
Pakistan to beat England
1st test – 13th to 17th October
2nd test – 22nd to 26th October
3rd test – 1st to 5th November
Odds: 5/6 1.83 -120 0.83 -1.20 0.83