ENGLAND’S TOUGH ASSIGNMENT

England know full well the perils of facing Pakistan after a successful home summer. In 2005 they suffered a 2-0 defeat in Pakistan that showed the team that had regained the Ashes had reached its peak. They were whitewashed in a three-match series in 2012, a few months after claiming top spot in the ICC Test Rankings.

Injuries and a lack of preparation were major factors in those defeats, but if a degree of complacency had crept into the tourists’ mind-sets, it will surely not be repeated this time around. Pakistan are unbeaten in their last seven Test series in UAE. Only Australia, in 2002, have won a Test series against Pakistan in the Emirates. This will be the 10th series held there.

New Zealand fought back to draw a series last November, but that came hot on the heels on one of the most one-sided series in recent times. In winning both Tests against Australia, Pakistan recorded their largest run-margin Test win (356 runs at Abi Dhabi) and nine centuries, the most by a team in a two-Test series.

Australia averaged 25.7 with the bat in that series and 80.2 with the ball, a month of toil that hinted at their problems in unfamiliar conditions which persisted this Ashes summer. England’s bowling stood up well on their UAE visit in 2012 – Pakistan’s average of 25.8 runs per wicket was their second lowest in their 10 UAE Test series.

Unfortunately for the visitors their batting was fragile, producing totals of 192, 160, 327, 72, 141 and 252. Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman took 24 and 19 wickets respectively, hauls which create alarm bells for an England batting unit that rarely looked at ease against orthodox spinner Nathan Lyon this summer. Legspinner Yasir Shah – 31 wickets in his last four Tests – will be licking his lips.