Today marks the start of the second test between England and Pakistan in Dubai, and as has been proven over the years the second rubber in a three-match series can often be the defining encounter.
Pakistan have won the toss and will bat first, which puts them in the driving seat knowing that they will bowl last on a wearing pitch. England will be hoping that they can bowl them out cheaply as they did here back in 2012, when they dismissed the Green Caps for a paltry 99.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad did the bulk of the work that day, picking up seven wickets between them, and so it is clear that – unlike in Abu Dhabi – there will be plenty for the seamers to work with.
In their own first innings in that Dubai test of 2012, the English batsmen capitulated in the face of some probing spin bowling, and so it will be interesting to see how Yasir Shah goes for the Green Caps. He has taken 61 wickets in just ten tests to date, and has recovered from a back injury to take his place in the side. The leggie also picked up seven scalps on his debut here last year against Australia, and will look to generate huge turn in the latter stages of the match. He appears a shoe-in to be Pakistan’s leading bowler in this test.
It is harder for right handed batsman to tackle a leg spinner than a leftie, and for that reason we like Alastair Cook to be England’s leading first innings run scorer again at 7/2. He should be able to combat Shah’s big turn, and after his record-breaking performance in the first test it would be foolish to look elsewhere in this market.
It was in that game against the Aussies that Younis Khan hit two centuries for his country, and he has to be the hot favourite to top score for Pakistan once again. He hit 38 and 45 in the first test of this series too, and so is in reasonable form.
The Win’s the Thing
There is a suggestion that Ben Stokes isn’t 100% fit for this match after suffering from a stomach bug all week, and even though he has been selected for the team if that is the case then he will be a big loss for England. The ability to bowl reverse swing as well as traditional shape is huge in Dubai, so instead plump for Jimmy Anderson to be England’s leading bowler in this test. It is unlikely that the Pakistan batsmen will be demolished by Adil Rashid on such a slow turning deck.
The notion that this test will be a much more balanced battle between bat and ball will be music to the ear of England fans, who know their side possesses a better bowling attack then their opponents here. If their batsman can come up with the goods as well, then they stand a good chance of winning this match.
However, Misbah has already described this Dubai surface as a ‘results pitch’, and much will depend on the fitness of Yasir Shah – and England’s ability to combat him on the last day of the match – as to how this match goes.
But Pakistan are naturally favourites as they will bowl last on a wearing pitch; and so their price of 11/10 looks good value. There is a feeling that punters can discount the threat of a draw in this encounter.