Pakistan v England, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi January 24, 2012

Placid pitch could aid England comeback


Match facts

January 25, Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Start time 1000 (0600 GMT)

Big Picture

England's No. 1 ranking hangs heavily upon them after their 10-wicket defeat against Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai. If their first-innings capitulation was forgivable after a five-month lay-off from Test cricket, their collapse second time around was met with more consternation. The general perception was that this was one of England's worst batting displays for years.

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium, on the face of it, offers the chance of redemption. It has only staged two Tests and both finished in high-scoring draws. Pakistan and South Africa have both scored more than 500 in their first innings here so Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, in their 100th innings together as an opening pair, have every chance to reach the landmark in style.

Pakistan impressed in Dubai with the methodical way in which they dismantled England but they will surely find them more resilient opponents here.

Form guide

Pakistan: WWWDW
England: LWWWW

Players to watch

Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook might be about to open England's innings together for the 100th time but their partnership is showing signs of vulnerability. They have failed to reach double figures in seven of their last 11 innings and Strauss himself is in a lean run of form. Pakistan's new-ball bowler, Umar Gul, is one of the few survivors from their humiliating tour of England in 2010 and if he continues his domination over the England pair he will maintain Pakistan's momentum.

Team news

Chris Tremlett has a sore back and after his mediocre display in Dubai that seems ample cause to leave him out. England are most likely to maintain their formula of three quicks by drafting in Steven Finn but they will study the pitch anxiously before definitely omitting Monty Panesar as a second spinner.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Taufeeq Umar, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Aizaz Cheema.

England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Eoin Morgan, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 James Anderson, 11 Steven Finn.

Pitch and conditions

Matt Prior, England's wicketkeeper, rightly praised Dubai as an excellent Test pitch. It was not quite the benign surface that many had anticipated, offering a little encouragement for seam and spin bowlers alike. Abu Dhabi will be different, the warnings go, but at least the quicks on both sides will find the cooler temperatures in their favour.

Stats and trivia

  • England could slip from the top of the ICC Test Championship if they lose to Pakistan by more than a one-Test margin in the three-Test series.
  • Saeed Ajmal passed Graeme Swann after the first Test as the leading spin bowler in the ICC Test rankings.
  • Ajmal's 1 for 167 in Sri Lanka's second dig at Sheikh Zayed Stadium last year is his worst analysis in a Test innings.
  • Umar Gul has dismissed Alastair Cook five times in seven Tests, making the England opener Gul's joint-second most-frequent victim
  • Jonathan Trott and Misbah-ul-Haq both passed 2,000 runs in Tests in Dubai.


"I think even Straussy swore after being given out down the leg side in the [first] Test."
Alastair Cook, England's opener, reveals the frustration of his usually placid captain.

"They are better batsmen than us. I don't know what happened, really."
Adnan Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, on England's dismal Dubai showing.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on January 25, 2012, 10:47 GMT

    @LillianThomson on (January 24 2012, 22:34 PM GMT) - Sorry to disagree , but Pak's batsmen batted exceptionally well in the 1st test against an England bowling attck who had been pulverising many a team over the last year or so. In just 1 inns they did more than what India did in 8 , in scoring over 300. You can't judge Pak so much by how they played vs Zimbabwe and Bangladesh but if we're judging them by how they played in the 1st test - which is all we have to judge them by - team Pak passed with flying colours

  • Farooq on January 25, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    England will surely bounce back and should be and that how we will get a cracker.........

  • Atif on January 25, 2012, 3:41 GMT

    @LillianThomson - Dude, your analysis shows you dont even know abc of cricket. You are beaten by 10 wickets by this very team. You are telling us England will loose by 20 wickets by a better team?

  • A on January 25, 2012, 3:08 GMT

    Thank you, Nutcutlet, for acknowledging my gripe. I do admit though it was a bit harsh, and I'm sure Mr Hopps will amend future match previews. Ofcourse, if the article is specifically about analyzing one team's performance, I have no issues with it. But as you correctly articulated my feelings, it is match previews where we all expect pre-game info of both sides. However, best not to dwell much on the quality of the preview, it is the game that we're all looking forward to. I have had countless pleasant exchanges, analytical and heated discussions and jumpy banter with many English fans over the years, and I find them very sincere and truly passionate about the sport. That is one reason why I enjoy Pak v Eng series so much. English pundits have been very kind to Pakistani cricket over the years, I remember the high esteem Geoff Boycott held Wasim and Waqar in back in the 90s, a pleasure to listen to. To achieve a good game today, both sides have to believe they CAN bowl each other out

  • John on January 24, 2012, 22:34 GMT

    Not being funny or anything but this seems like a negative preview (from an England fan's perspective). I know we don't want to lose a second test but the report seems to intimate that all we want/need to do is draw this match, Erm HELLO! aren't we a test down in a 3 match series or am I missing something here? Surely if we need a placid draw condusive pitch it's when we're a test up not a test down? If it is a placid pitch , is that not even more a reason to play 5 bowlers?

  • David on January 24, 2012, 22:34 GMT

    Pakistan are not without problems of their own: they have been playing to their full potential but haven't faced a good bowling attack on a lively wicket since the tour of England in 2010. PROBLEM 1 - Asad Shafiq looked technically flawed when he played half-forward in the First Test, and unless he rebuilds his technique cannot survive against a good attack. PROBLEM 2 - Ajmal is a genuine world class spinner, but Rehman is a support bowler and so is Umar Gul - his true place was as third seamer behind Asif and Amir. This attack will probably be pulverised in South Africa a year from now if Amir hasn't been amnestied by then. PROBLEM 3 - Hafeez and Taufeeq are decent ODI/T20 players but they're not international class at Test level, while Azhar is a one-dimensional accumulator. Sooner or later a decent attack will reduce Pakistan to 10-3. PROBLEM 4 - Cheema is far from Test class, while Wahab bowls too wide of the crease to get lbws. Junaid must play.

  • Dummy4 on January 24, 2012, 22:04 GMT

    in the last test , second innings ,Gul found himself overloaded after cheema fell to an injury, however this time on this pitch i would go for wahab riaz in place of cheema , just to have an extra edge with his pace ...

  • Dr Athar on January 24, 2012, 20:52 GMT

    If you read the last question to Ask Stevens today. Who are the barren bowlers in a series. It gives a very interesting reading. All bowlers except one, who did not get a single wicket in the entire series are spinners against Pakistan. Respected names in that list [one from England too]. All who are suggesting another spinner in the team tomorrow, think again. If Pakistani players can play spin that good, what can Monty Panesar do in this match?

  • Mustafa on January 24, 2012, 20:40 GMT

    I dont know which game you guys were watching but everytime Cheema came on, he troubled the batsmen, specially Cook and Strauss, his awkward angle to them creates problem, getting openers cheaply is vital to Pak. And then we always have Hafeez to use with the new ball if needed. Playing wahab on a flat deck is useless, Junaid is a bit more skillful, so I might go with him, but Cheema if fit has to continue. And nope no dropping rehman, if he can't take wkts he can control runs.

  • Rehan on January 24, 2012, 20:18 GMT

    I watched Umar Gul and Cheema bowling at the start of england second innings, and cheema was giving the openers much more trouble in the first few overs. Batsmen were beaten many times and he looked more likely to take a wicket than Gul. However for some reason he switched to around the wicket after a few overs and became ineffective. I think a captain with a better understanding of fast bowling might have persisted with him going over the witcket and he would have got the wicket. I often get the feeling that Misbah doesn't understand the fast bowlers well enough to work with them. He just sends them in - if they get him a wicket then fine, otherwise he just brings on the spinners.

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