England are now the number one Test side in the world following that emphatic whitewash of India last summer and there will be additional pressure on their shoulders for an unusual series being played on neutral ground.
The consensus is that the pitch in Dubai will be a batsman’s paradise and that is reflected in the match odds which sees the Draw as a short favourite. There aren’t many Tests where you can get a best price 6/5 (Ladbrokes – £50 free bets) that there is no result after five days play, especially as there is little rain forecast over the five days.
The bookmakers think that England are more likely to claim victory than Pakistan, with odds of 2/1 (bet365 – £200 free betting) on offer about the tourists, although the truth is that the English don’t have a great recent record in Asia.
“English sides have not done particularly well in Asia,” Andrew Strauss said. “That’s an immediate hurdle we need to overcome. There’s a lot of scope for improvement in our side and I’ll be very disappointed if anyone sits back and thinks we’re the finished article. We’re clearly not.”
It appears that the pitch will be spin-friendly which suggests that Monty Panesar could edge out Chris Tremlett from the starting team for the 1st test, with the former enjoying a new lease of life for the national team.
Panesar is a 7/2 chance to claim the most wickets in this match, with your money back if he isn’t selected, while Graeme Swann is available at 5/2 and could have plenty of joy over the next few days.
Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are certain starters, while the England batting order has a predictable look about it and it will be interesting to see whether Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen can start scoring some runs.
KP remains an enigma for his country, although there is no question of the former captain being dropped and 2012 could be a make or break year for someone with bags of natural talent but prone to getting out easily.
Pietersen is a 5/1 chance to score the most runs for England in Dubai, with Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott the slight favourites.
Pakistan were rocked by the match-fixing scandal last year although this is still a talented team and the home side are 3/1 to give England food for thought by claiming victory in this match.