England’s experiment of Moeen Ali at the top of the order could well be trialled again ahead of the first Test against Pakistan after he and leg-spinner Adil Rashid impressed in the two-day warm-up against Pakistan A in Sharjah.
Moeen made 22 as opener in England’s 5-286 on day one of the contest, then yesterday took 3-41 as Pakistan A made 5-216 from their 90 overs in what petered out to a draw.
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Rashid, who also demonstrated his wares with the bat courtesy of an unbeaten 51, then saw chances dropped off his bowling to finish with 0-55 from 20 overs.
The impact of the spin duo, the threat they pose on pitches that are likely to offer little assistance to the quicks, and the fact that no batsman is banging down the door to partner captain Alastair Cook all point to Moeen again opening the batting.
On England’s most recent visit to the United Arab Emirates, in 2012, spin was the decisive factor in the series, which Pakistan won 3-0.
Of the 110 wickets to fall, 75 fell to spin, and the top three wicket-takers were all spinners.
This time around, there’s little reason to expect anything different.
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“‘Tweedledee’ and ‘Tweedledum’ are going to be perfect together in these conditions,” said England paceman Mark Wood, who bestowed a new nickname on the pairing of Moeen and Rashid.
“The spinners showed today they're going to be vital.
“Moeen Ali, I thought, assessed the conditions really well and bowled a great pace.
“Then Adil Rashid, if chances had been taken off him, I think he's proved he's a wicket-taking bowler.
“I thought they were excellent. I think, if we need to break a partnership, those two are going to be vital.
“We saw in the summer at home, we took those chances (and won).
“We’re going to have to do the same here because we know we’re not going to get as many here with the pitches and the heat.”
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England’s next outing is another two-day match against a Pakistan A side, beginning in Sharjah Thursday, with the first Test to start next Tuesday in Abu Dhabi.
Wood said that a distinction would have to be made between the aggressive brand of cricket that won England the Ashes, and the perseverance required to wear down an opponent in Asian conditions.
"We've talked about playing aggressive cricket and attacking cricket, but in these conditions you can't blast teams out – you have to sit in and be patient," he said.
"Wickets can fall quickly and then all of a sudden you can be four down in a hurry and that changes the momentum of the game.
“We've just got to be patient. When we get one then that's the time to attack and try to get two or three quickly.”