England should come through unscathed against Pakistan
If England want to remain at top of the Test match tree then the Pakistan series is the sort of challenge they must win
As the world’s top ranked Test side you would expect England to coast their two warm-up matches before the first Test against Pakistan, and they have duly obliged.
However, the performances have certainly caused a few headaches for Andy Flower and the selection committee ahead of the series opener in Dubai.
The problem lies with the strategy England want to take with their bowling attack. And whether they want to field two spinners and two frontline seamers or stick with the tried and tested formula of Graeme Swann in partnership with three quicks.
Monty Panesar took five wickets as England brushed aside the Pakistan Cricket Board XI this week. Panesar, who took seven wickets in the match, bowled tightly in the first innings as he took five for 57 at an economy rate of 1.96 an over while Swann managed just a singular wicket in each innings.
His performance will certainly have the selectors mulling over their preferred approach. Playing away against Pakistan, albeit in the untested UAE region, lends itself to playing two spinners.
But it is unclear as to whether England will want to stray from the selection policy that took them to number one in the world.
Tim Bresnan has flown home from the tour, unable to shake off the elbow injury he suffered from before flying out. In his absence, England will need a true workhorse to get through the tough, dogged Asian conditions. Steven Finn is the likely candidate after a stellar performance in the one day series in India.
Chris Tremlett should push Finn all the way. It is slightly harsh that he finds himself down the pecking order after his superb performances in Australia and in English summer just gone. But this is the nature of the England side now, especially in the bowling department.
A spell out of the side through injury can see a player, like Tremlett, slide out of favour when previously he would have gone straight back in. But strength in depth is what England need if they are to remain as the world’s best.
The batting has often struggled in Asia, particularly in one-day cricket. However, the side should remain confident of being able to handle a Pakistan attack that includes Saeed Ajmal, one of the best spinners in the world at the moment.
Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan are all capable of playing spin in a Test match environment. The onus is likely to fall on Morgan, with his wristy sweeps and Trott, with who likes to hang on the back foot, to do most of the scoring against the spin
If England want to remain at top of the Test match tree then the Pakistan series is the sort of challenge they must win.
But with the strength of their squad and their level of confidence in this form of the game currently, they should come through it unscathed.