Taylor beneficiary as Buttler star wanes
The contrast in emotions was stark. In one corner you have James Taylor, finally about to resume his Test career after a gap of three years, and in the other Jos Buttler, a wonderkid of English cricket, who has endured the first major setback of his international career.
It is a slightly curious situation that the demotion of a player in a very specific role - the wicketkeeper - has opened the door for the return of a specialist batsman, but Taylor can be thankful for the presence of Jonny Bairstow in the middle order.
He has bided his time for three years but occasionally hasn't hid his frustration at being continually overlooked since those two Tests against South Africa in 2012. Alastair Cook admitted he probably had some ill-feeling over the length of his wait for a second chance and said that he could not have done more to earn a recall.
"He came in in 2012, had a couple of games and didn't make the next tour. I'm sure he feels he was harshly treated, sometimes that's the way of selection - it can work for you and against you," Cook said. "He's gone away over the last three years and he's a much different player than what I remember him as. We saw that in the summer, the way he played the quick bowling in the one-day series against Australia in particular, that hundred, he looked a fantastic player. He's come on tour and continued that."
So far in the series England have just the one hundred - Cook's monumental 263 in Abu Dhabi - compared to four from Pakistan. In Dubai they paid the price for batsmen failing to convert fifties, especially in the first innings when Cook and Joe Root fell for 65 and 88 respectively while Bairstow made 46, and Taylor's domestic conversion rate of hundreds into 'daddy hundreds' is something that has stood out.
Six of Taylor's 20 first-class hundreds have been doubles (although one against Loughborough MCCU does not carry the same weight as the others), his most recent being a career-best 291 against Sussex last season, while he has also made an unbeaten 242 for England Lions in Sri Lanka. As a comparison, three of Cook's 50 first-class hundreds have been doubles (albeit all in Test cricket), four of Ian Bell's 50 centuries have been doubles and three of Joe Root's 15.
"He's itching to play and you don't average 47-48 in first-class cricket without being a fine player," Cook said. "One of his very strong points is that when he gets in he goes on to get big scores. We know how important first-innings runs are to set the game up."
Yet while Cook has been able to hand out good news to Taylor, the flip side is he has had to tell Buttler that, for the time being, his Test career is halted. Buttler's form since the start of the Ashes - an average of 13.00 - had become too much for the middle order to carry and retaining him in the side could have done more harm than good to his keeping as well.
It may be that he does not return until he has been able to put together a run of first-class matches for Lancashire at the start of next season, although he is still likely to feature for England in one-day and T20 cricket over the next six months, which includes the World T20 in India. Cook said Buttler needed to work out the way he wanted to play in Test cricket, but picked out Joe Root as an example of how a player can quickly turn their fortunes around.
Root was left out of the final Ashes Test in 2013-14 at Sydney but returned five months later with a double-hundred against Sri Lanka, at Lord's, since when he has averaged 76.11 with 2055 runs in 19 matches and risen to No. 1 in the rankings. In a recent interview with his mentor, Michael Vaughan, in the Telegraph, Root cited being dropped in Australia as the turning point for him and Cook hopes similar will happen for Buttler.
"He'll have to go away and be really clear on how he wants to play in Test cricket," Cook said. "He knows his game really well in T20 and one-day cricket, but he probably knows it less well Test cricket. It's about finding his ideal method and sticking by that.
"We all know the amount of talent he has got, you see him play an innings that everyone around the world says is amazing, but he's not the first person who has come in, done pretty well then had a tough patch, been left out and come back stronger.
"He only has to look at Joe Root, getting left out of that Sydney game and using it as motivation to be clear on how he wanted to play in every situation. He's come back as a far better player because of it."
The other confirmed changed for England is the enforced one of a replacement for Mark Wood. Cook said it would be a late call on whether his spot would be taken by Liam Plunkett or a third spinner in Samit Patel on a surface that is expected to start very dry. However, Cook confirmed he had never expected Wood to play the entire series.
"It's a shame for him, but it's part of his management process of his ankle," Cook said. "I was told by medics that he wasn't fit to play. It's part and parcel of how much he can play on his ankle. He bowled really well in Dubai but we didn't expect him to play all three games."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo