Predictions for this series are difficult. Dubai is a place unknown to your regular Englishman; I am that – but here goes…
Very likely to happen
There will be turn from day one. Hearing all that I have heard on SkySportsNews in the past couple of weeks about the pitches out in Dubai, it’s going to turn big. With Graeme Swann and Saeed Ajmal present, it will turn even more. Did I mention, it might turn a little?
Swann will take wickets and Panesar will get in on the act at some point as well – but Ajmal will eclipse them all, picking up 22 wickets in the three match series at an average of 16.21.
Jonathan Trott will bat for ages, scoring copious amounts of runs at a strike rate of 27.33. This will definitely happen – I’m sure of it.
Ian Bell will unfurl numerous stunning, textbook and devastating cover drives to the boundary.
Could possibly happen…
Kevin Pietersen knuckles down for 50 before smashing it everywhere to hit the fastest 200 ever and everyone declares it the best knock of all time.
Chris Tremlett will turn in to Arnold Schwarzenegger because he is just that big and by this time next year, he will be Mr Universe.
Definitely won’t happen…
With come-backs seemingly ‘in’ at the moment (for example Thierry Henry and Paul Scholes), Mike Gatting will make a return to test cricket, notching a gritty 23 before being dismissed leg-before in the first innings.
On a more serious note….
It will be a series where many runs are scored on pitches that won’t have much pace or bounce; suiting the likes of Trott and Alistair Cook who will bat all day.
Because of the pitches being so ‘batsman-friendly’ I expect England to play five bowlers, to lessen the work-load in the heat, but also because they have complete confidence in the top order to score runs. Unlike in past sides, this England team has big runs in its top order. If England want to win this series they need to take 20 wickets in tough conditions and by playing five bowlers, there is a much greater chance of that happening.
If England do go with five, Panesar and Swann will both play, alongside Anderson, Broad and Tremlett – that is some attack. Swann needs to find his very best form and if Panesar can fire as well, it could be a fruitful trip for the off-spinning duo.
Pakistan will fight; they will have to in order to compete. But I think England will have too much for the hosts, and will take the three match series 2-0.