The Asia Cup will take place in the UAE for the first time since 1995. Patrick Noone looks at the likely conditions and how they might affect the bowlers of Pakistan, one of the favourites to lift the trophy.
Perhaps surprisingly, the UAE has not proved to be particularly conducive for spin bowling in recent years. In fact, since the last World Cup, only Australia and New Zealand have seen less average turn than the UAE.
Despite these numbers, teams have persisted with the slower bowlers in the UAE. 47% of all balls bowled there since the last World Cup have been by spinners, the second highest in that period.
By contrast, seamers have been relatively successful in the UAE, particularly in comparison to many other Asian countries. Only Bangladesh, Ireland and Zimbabwe have seen seamers average less than they do in the UAE and the latter of those is the only country where they have recorded a lower economy rate.
With all that in mind, it is perhaps no surprise that Pakistan have seen a conveyor belt of talented quicks emerge in recent years. Pakistan have won their last eight ODIs in the UAE and nine of the last 12 there since the 2015 World Cup. Their adopted home has become something of a fortress and, though they would have preferred to be playing regular international cricket in Pakistan, their familiarity with conditions will surely provide them with an enormous advantage.
Pakistan’s main strike bowler will likely be Hasan Ali. The right-arm seamer has the best strike rate of quicks to have taken 50 wickets or more since the last World Cup.
With Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan also likely to feature in Pakistan’s starting XI, and with the up and coming talents of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Khan Shinwari named in the squad, Pakistan’s seam attack has depth and variety with a mixture of youth and experience.
And what of Pakistan’s spinners? In recent years, they have tended to use their slower bowlers in containing roles, particularly in the early part of the innings with the likes of Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz. Wasim has not made the squad so Pakistan will likely use Nawaz through the middle overs with keeping the scoring rate down his priority.
It is something that Pakistan have been adept at doing since the World Cup, with only India and Bangladesh’s spinners conceding fewer runs per over than theirs in overs 11-40.
All these numbers suggest that Pakistan will go into this year’s Asia Cup with plenty of options to put out a well-balanced attack that looks more than capable of causing problems to any side in the competition.
Patrick Noone is an analyst at CricViz.