Pakistan v England, 2nd Test, Abu Dhabi

Placid pitch could aid England comeback

The Preview by David Hopps

January 24, 2012

Comments: 52 | Text size: A | A

Match facts

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

Steven Finn bowls in the nets before England's second Test, Abu Dhabi, January, 24, 2012
Steven Finn could be recalled in place of Chris Tremlett, who is struggling with a back injury © Getty Images

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

RSS Feeds: David Hopps

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 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

Posted by Rouky04 on (January 25, 2012, 4:44 GMT)

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

Posted by Stavroulla 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?

Posted by cricket_fan_1980 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

Posted by JG2704 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?

Posted by LillianThomson 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.

Posted by   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 ...

Posted by DrAtharAbbas 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?

Posted by mustufa 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.

Posted by explorer76 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.

Posted by landl47 on (January 24, 2012, 20:12 GMT)

@ Asmax and other Pakistani commenters complaining about the preview: Which part of 'Pakistan impressed in Dubai with the methodical way in which they dismantled England' did you find biassed against Pakistan?

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 19:34 GMT)

definate draw is only option,

Posted by Nutcutlet on (January 24, 2012, 19:07 GMT)

It seems that some Pakistani fans have a gripe with David Hopps' review here. And using that empathy hat that we should all air and wear once in a while (like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, for those of you familiar with the novel: 'Walk a mile in another man's shoes'), I can see where these Pakistani fans are coming from. David, you shouldn't forget your multi-national audience! Pakistan fans would like to know how their players have netted; their team changes and the spirit in the Pakistani camp, and anything else that you, were you a Pakistani sitting at home, would want to know. They are sincere in their criticisms, just as you are sincere in doing your job well. Perhaps there should be two previews, one from each side, as cricket_fan_1980 suggests. That does seem to me to be a way forward and thus each correpondent can meet the interests and demands of different audiences. At all events, we all look forward to gr8 match and I hope for a stirring contest, not a bore draw.

Posted by tahir989 on (January 24, 2012, 18:58 GMT)

There always has been 2 side of the coin. So Eng lost one to a No5 team. Well the headlines surely should be on the No5 team heroic markup where they only required 3 days to hit the first blood ... there should be a proper praise to their triumph and should be accordingly applauded and praised.. Instead focusing how Eng needs to come back stringer and how they can still win, I mean while I was watching the first test and Pak has already replied with almsot a 150 runs lead to Eng 192 all out, I was listening to the commentary where the English commentators were debating that how Eng will bat stronger in 2nd inns and will win the match. I was surprised how they were adamant on seeing an Eng win and wasn't at all considering the fact that Pak can indeed win a test against them. For heaven sake they ripped them apart in 3 days... True hero here is the Pak team and they should be the center of attraction as their win rather then how Eng will come back stringer on 2nd test. Anyways GL Eng..

Posted by vivek_khyati on (January 24, 2012, 18:33 GMT)

pakistan team is high on confidence.. and the embarrassing defeat in 1st test will definitely play on english player's minds.. so i feel that pakistan has an edge over england in 2nd test.. pakistan should include one more pace bowler, either junaid or riaz, as the pitch will not be like that of dubai.. hafeez can compliment ajmal in spin dept, so they can do away with rehman for this test.. for england it depends largely upon how trott and peiterson play.. the openers are vulnerable and hence, its upto johnathan and kevin to render foundation to the innings.. bowling wise, pakistan attack is far ahead of english.. i would say 70:30 for a pak win..

Posted by khurramsch on (January 24, 2012, 18:15 GMT)

cant understand why is this talk about pitch? guys dont forget what happened before those 500 + scores on this pitch. everybody talked same about dubai but it ended in 3 days. now here SA got big score but was 34/3 & both kalas & ABD got lifes from no DRS & build huge partnership with kalas 100 & ABD to record 288*. otherwise it would have been a result . & with SL we know they got out for 197 & in 2nd inings it was 6 drops by pak which reduced time at the end. its not the pitch its how you play on it.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 18:08 GMT)

let us pray for cricket....we want a nice game... whoever wins doesn't matter....but the game should be the one to watch....not the one that has ended in three days...hope 4 pakistan's team.may ALLAH bless us...ameen

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 17:45 GMT)

Strauss and Cooki will play a special innings tomorrow to greet their 100th innings together by earning a duck each tomorrow

Posted by AsadCricFan on (January 24, 2012, 17:35 GMT)

You've gotta feel bad for Cheema, coming into the side and still being one of the older guys in the team when there is plenty of young talent in the seam department. I would probably go for Junaid as the second seamer. Cheema seems to be more of an ODI and T20 specialist and Wahab Riaz seems to be more affective in tests. Junaid is an all round package with a lot of potential. We need to keep him as a priority. Wahab is also a talent but with his action, there isn't much a coach can do. If he wants to develop an inswinger, he will have to change is action completely. Wahab just needs to focus on consistency in his line and length and he can be super affective. He gets decent swing and more than decent pace. He has got a good bouncer and yorker as well. As long as he gets his line and length right, he is a dangerous bowler.

Posted by spence1324 on (January 24, 2012, 17:34 GMT)

Good preview as ever but with anything a englishman writes these days you will find that pakistan fans find something to moan about!

Posted by Herath-UK on (January 24, 2012, 17:34 GMT)

It will be pretty important from England's perspective to save this series by putting up a better performance.Their next assignment is on spinning wickets in Sri Lanka who will be keen to avenge their defeat last spring and by the time SA comes, England might have lost its No 1 status. Ranil Herath - Kent

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 17:33 GMT)

Posted by cricket_fan_1980 ... so true, i wonder where is Usman Samiuaddin ? he was the best editor by far ..

Posted by Asmax on (January 24, 2012, 17:29 GMT)

Bias preview I have ever read,,,,, "Big picture" was painted for one team, english media has got into Mr. Hopps head.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 17:28 GMT)

This article should be relabelled as 'The English Schoolboy Preview', or better removed from Cricinfo as it fails to live up the standards of reporting I expect from Cricinfo.

Posted by SirHearth on (January 24, 2012, 17:12 GMT)

Please can you correct the first stat in the 'Stats and Trivia' section above. England will retain the No. 1 ranking in the ICC Test Championship at the end of this series even if this series is lost 0-3.

The only threat to England's No. 1 ranking at the end of this series could have come from currently second-ranked India. However, at the end of their current series with Australia, they will move to third position.

As the statistics may have been calculated before the start of both series, they can now be updated to reflect the end-of-series standings.

Posted by cricket_fan_1980 on (January 24, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

Moving on from the quality of the article, I will let it slip, I know Mr Hopps has written some other good pieces. I think England should get over this mentality of 3 pacers and 1 spinner. They really need Monty here. Left-arm spin will trouble Pakistan and possibly bog them down. It is a pity Bresnan is not here, otherwise that would be an easy move. I personally feel Anderson and Broad, Swann and Monty are perfect. It is a misplaced arrogance to think that 3 + 1 bowling attack works everywhere in the world. Best of luck to both sides. I hope this is a cracker of a game

Posted by KashifMuneer on (January 24, 2012, 16:41 GMT)

From what I have seen, Abu Dhabi pitch actually offers a bit more spin than Dubai but nothing unmanageable (if you can use that word after England's 1st test batting display). I like the attitude of the Pakistan team who still think that English team is stronger than them. This will keep them working hard.

I really hope we pick a left-arm seamer (Wahab Riaz or Junaid Khan ideally) as Aizaz Cheema looked flat and left-arm seam has had success against England historically as they don't get much practise against them in the nets having all right hand seam attack in the squad (Bresnan, Anderson, Broad, Onions and Tremlett).

Best options for England would be to pick Bopara instead of Morgan and Panesar instead of Tremlett as Ravi can bowl some seam and the addition of another spinner will strengthen the bowling line-up but I can't see that happening really.

Posted by zain.ul.abideen on (January 24, 2012, 16:29 GMT)

wow...are fans from other countries even supposed to read this or is this article purely for the British fans by a fellow Englishman???

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 16:24 GMT)

Eng will lose badly again By ISLAH HANJ PAK

Posted by cricket_fan_1980 on (January 24, 2012, 16:17 GMT)

Possibly the worst match preview I have ever read on cricinfo. Completely one-sided, the only time that Pakistan was even mentioned in the whole article was when they were "humiliated" in 2010. Please, I request to mix up the features with a Pakistani analyst AND an English analyst, and ideally a neutral analyst to write extra features. I plan to formally complain to the cricinfo editors and perhaps send around a letter of petition to demand that Mr Hopps either writes at the calibre that is expected of him, in his position, or pass on this position to somebody who will actually write good quality pieces.

Posted by HawksEyeFocused on (January 24, 2012, 16:08 GMT)

A Message to Team India from BCCI: Well done!!! Stick to our plan. Don't try to win all the remaining matches as well. We want to fix all these matches in Australia foolprooflly as we had done it in 1996 Semi-Final against Sri Lanka. The three Pakistanis were not expert. They had to come to us to team how we have been fixing matches and making the whole world fool esp. our crazy Indian fans. But no problem these crazy Indian fans would never know our plan as we have strong financial muscles. Jai Money Hare India!

Posted by nomiravian on (January 24, 2012, 16:03 GMT)

Hm..m. . . .Lets see if junaid khan comes into d squad.....I luv to see him as he iz a great upcoming talent of PAKISTAN pace attack.....Not bad to play wid three pacers including wahab,gul and junaid.....but that depends on d pitch whether to drop rehman or not......Awaiting.....

Posted by Sinhaya on (January 24, 2012, 15:54 GMT)

Pakistan is definitely going to win this test and lead 2-0! PAKISTAN ZINDABAD!

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 15:45 GMT)

ENGLAND are against some extremely tough bowling unit. you cant mark ajmal alone really becuse gul and rehman are equally good. pakistan , now, after a long time has some discipline . if thier talent merges with method and discipline then they can do whatever can be done.,,,,, believe me. pakistan is cricketing nation. wellcome bangladesh if you come .i hope so

Posted by billbowden311 on (January 24, 2012, 15:39 GMT)

Where is junaid khan, Cheema is not in form, abdur rehman should be dropped, due to less spin this is how it should look like: (Probable) Mohammed Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul haq( Capt), Umar Akmal, Adnan Akmal(wk), Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan.

Posted by Saqib_Sheraz on (January 24, 2012, 15:34 GMT)

Aizaz Cheema is again in the side? We all know He is struggling with fitness problems in first test, Pakistan have lot of choices in fast bowling department, need to utilize resources rather than using fired cartridges...

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 15:33 GMT)

I commend Adnan Akmal for his openness, but England once again froze against a talented spinner in conditions which should not have helped him as much as they appeared to do... I was always taught (not that I had the ability to put it into practice to first use your feet to the spinner (ie seek to negate whatever help may be in the pitch) and then your bat playing as straight as possible (thus negating inside or outside edges).

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 15:33 GMT)

Pitch will be placid but on day 1 in first session it will help seamers and if team batting second got 3 early wickets they will be in driving seat though have to work harder for remaining 15 16 wickets .Pakistan should play 3 seamers if they really want to win series convincingly and England should nt change much apart from finn tremlt exchange .Match will definitely go to last day for sure and ajmal will find it hard on this venue but seamers on both sides will enjoy bowling . Most probable result is draw but apart from draw both sides have equal chances of winning the game 50 50 .I cant see one team more favourite than other though in last test in dubai pakistan will be clearly favourite.

Posted by landl47 on (January 24, 2012, 15:28 GMT)

Poor Tremlett is turning into the Ryan Harris of England- great bowler when he's fit, but he's hardly ever fit. I hope England will play two spinners in this test; I really can't see them bowling out Pakistan twice with three seamers and just one spinner. Most of all, I hope the wicket isn't as dead as anticipated. The last thing test cricket needs is a snore-fest on a featherbed. Best of luck to both sides.

Posted by Touseef117 on (January 24, 2012, 15:27 GMT)

i cant wait to see the second test match............ it is important for Pakistan to dismiss their openers early in the inning to have an impact. i think jaunaid khan should be given a chance in place of Cheema because England's openers feels rusty against left handed bowler.... Spin has important role to play here as well, i hope ajmal performs here as well that will definitely turn the match in Pakistan favor.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (January 24, 2012, 15:26 GMT)


Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 15:25 GMT)

Pakistan's aim should be to dethrone England. That is the motivation of #5 team playing against #1.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 15:22 GMT)

mediocre preview by david hopps...........wishing best of luck for both teams........

Posted by anindya_mozumdar on (January 24, 2012, 15:14 GMT)

England should NOT make the DRASTIC MISTAKE of choosing two spinners. They should stick to three pacers, and with some discipline in batting should easily win the match.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 15:00 GMT)

If England are aiming a comeback they will have to play Doosra King with more confidence...Pakistan are now a settled unit and are expected to be at their very best..

Posted by PiyushD on (January 24, 2012, 14:53 GMT)

Go Pakistan go, deflate the English ego.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 14:48 GMT)

England should play monty as pakistan batsmen are very weak against left arm spinners and monty has a very good record against them.

Posted by khurrambhai on (January 24, 2012, 14:39 GMT)

Asad Shafiq could prove him self a great batsman if he is allowed to play his own game, by his defensive Captain.

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 14:38 GMT)

best of luck pakistan team we want to kill them in cricket field with our game of cricket not media and commites in field We now English palyers and media are so ???????????????????

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 14:36 GMT)

InshAllah Pk Won this Game also,And ajmal Make a Good come back then the last match of this ground

Posted by   on (January 24, 2012, 14:36 GMT)

InshAllah Pk Won this Game also,And ajmal Make a Good come back then the last match of this ground

Posted by iBilal on (January 24, 2012, 14:27 GMT)

well... this test will be the real test... Eng has to prove that they were rusty in Dubai and are still number 1 where as Pak has to prove that dubai was not a fluke. Its sad however to know that this pitch is totally dead and has nothing for the bowlers. All the best Pak team.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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England won by 5 runs
England v Pakistan at Dubai (DSC) - Feb 25, 2012
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England v Pakistan at Dubai (DSC) - Feb 23, 2012
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England v Pakistan at Dubai (DSC) - Feb 21, 2012
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