Mushtaq predicts high quality contest against Pakistan
Mushtaq Ahmed, England's spin bowling coach, has played down the home advantage Pakistan will enjoy during the series against England in the UAE, saying his team has grown used to playing on pitches that are slower than the ones at home. England and Pakistan will play three Tests, four ODIs and three Twenty20 internationals in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in January and February 2012.
Pakistan have been hosting their home games in the UAE after the terror attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009 forced the suspension of international tours to the country. They have played two Test series there since then, drawing against South Africa and beating Sri Lanka. Mushtaq, however, said England would not struggle against Pakistan's spinners on the pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
"England batsmen have learned to play spin bowling. They can manage spin with good control," Mushtaq told ESPNcricinfo. "We won a World Twenty20 in the West Indies where conditions are similar. At the end, it all depends on individual players, they have to understand and learn the things to survive. And they are very hard workers.
"Pakistan no doubt has improved a lot and rankings sometime don't reflect your standing. And England has been in top form over the last two to three years. So I expect it would be a good quality series."
Spinners have played a significant role in Pakistan's performances in 2011 and they are likely to hit England with a strong attack: Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez in the Tests, as well as Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik in the limited-overs matches. England may play just one spinner, Graeme Swann, in the Tests, but Mushtaq didn't think the mismatch in slow-bowling resources was a problem.
"I understand the pitches in the UAE are slow and Pakistan will obviously use their home advantage. We have Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett - all of them can bowl 90 mph. I don't think wickets do matter these days when you have quick bowlers who can bowl with muscle."
Swann's back-up on the UAE tour is left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, whose last Test was the Ashes opener in Cardiff in 2009. It remains to be seen whether England will alter the combination - three fast bowlers, one spinner - that helped them beat India 4-0 at home to accommodate a second slow bowler in the UAE.
"He [Panesar] has been a match-winning bowler and is still a good prospect," Mushtaq said. "His performance for Sussex brought him back to contention as he took 60 to 70 wickets in the domestic season, which is a lot for a spinner. He is the sort of left-arm spinner who bowls his orthodox delivery with force."
England open their tour with two warm-up games, the first of which begins on January 7, ahead of the Tests.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent