How Will Moeen Ali Cope As An Opener?
The gleeful brandishing of Moeen Ali’s Kookaburra bat was one of the best sights of England’s Ashes summer, as the batsman-come-all-rounder-come-first-choice spinner made some valuable contributions to England’s cause, not least the vital 59 batting with Stuart Broad in the first innings at Edgbaston when the very series stood on the line.
An upshot of all that – plus Adam Lyth’s well-documented struggles – is that Moeen has been promoted to opener for this series, with Alastair Cook confirming that he will be walking out to the middle with the 28-year-old in Abu Dhabi.
Moeen will be the seventh man to go through the revolving door which is England’s ‘other’ opening spot since the retirement of Andrew Strauss three years ago, but with voices such as the distinctive one of Geoffrey Boycott already claiming that this will be nothing more than a temporary move and that Moeen will soon return to No. 8, England’s latest opener will be under pressure to deliver.
Moeen Ali is 6.00 to be England’s top batsman in their first innings
How Big A Loss Is Steven Finn?
The feelgood story of the summer, Steven Finn has seen his momentum cruelly stopped in its tracks as he was ruled out of the first Test with what England are calling a ‘bone stress injury.’
Taking 4-16 in 15 overs in the warm-up match against Pakistan A suggested that Finn was going to be a huge factor in this series, but given that the three matches are being jammed in to just over three weeks, it has to be considered likely that this won’t be the only match he’ll miss.
Mark Wood will come into the team to replace him, but the loss of Finn’s extra height and the bounce he can generate on the Abu Dhabi wicket has to be considered a big blow.
Pakistan are 1.71 to hold a lead after the first innings
How Will James Anderson Handle The Conditions?
Ex-England captain Michael Vaughan used a weekend newspaper column to suggest that James Anderson shouldn’t be picked for this match if – as the climate in Abu Dhabi indicates – the conditions aren’t going to suit him.
Finn’s injury has since made that argument a little obsolete, but there would still be the option of England leaving out Anderson and picking a third spinner if they’d selected one in the squad, as Pakistan have done.
Although brilliant for spells in The Ashes – most notably the stunning 6-47 in the first innings of the three-day Test at Edgbaston – Anderson is going to find out that conditions in Abu Dhabi in October are vastly different from Birmingham in July, and if the Pakistan batsmen start to get on top of him then he could struggle.
Stuart Broad to take more wickets than James Anderson in the first innings is 1.88
How Much Of An Influence Will Mahela Jayawardene Be?
Batting in Asia is hard, of this we know, and so it makes sense to talk to someone who is very, very good at it before you do it.
Enter Sri Lanka legend Mahela Jayawardene, who has been working with England in a consultancy role and will be with the team throughout the first Test to pass on his considerable wisdom and tell Joe Root, Ian Bell et al of the stories behind his 9,399 Test runs at an average of 56 on the continent.
Recruited by Paul Farbrace, the reports of Jayawardene’s input have been nothing but positive so far, and even if he can just pass on one or two techniques which made him the player he was, then his addition could prove to be a masterstroke from the tourists.
Joe Root is 3.75 to be the top batsman in England’s first innings
Is Adil Rashid Ready For His Big Test?
English Test leg-spinners are something of a rare species, but there can be little doubt that Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid has served his apprenticeship as he prepares for a debut in the longest form of the game at the age of 27.
Set to become only the fourth England leg-spinner since 1971, Rashid has been backed by Cook and Trevor Bayliss going into the biggest challenge of his career, and with that support as well as 400 first-class wickets behind him, he’s ready to go.
Adil Rashid Is 4.00 to be top England bowler in the first innings
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