Alastair Cook hopes Moeen or Hales make impression as England opener in the UAE

Published: Wednesday 30th September 2015 by The News Editor

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England captain Alastair Cook is hoping to find his long-term opening partner in the forthcoming Test series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

Since Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012, Cook has seen Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson, Jonathan Trott and Adam Lyth try and fail to make the position their own.

Moeen Ali and Alex Hales were both on the plane to Dubai on Wednesday, and one will get the chance to prove their top-order credentials in the three Test series.

Moeen is the current favourite, with England pondering a promotion all the way from the number eight slot he occupied during the Ashes.

There are concerns that the Worcestershire all-rounder would be less suited to conditions on the subsequent tour of South Africa, but Cook is hoping that weight of runs will settle the issue once and for all.

“All the players we’ve tried have done pretty well, done okay with similar records in different conditions without anyone really grabbing the opportunity,” said Cook.

“Whether it has been Carbs or Sam Robson or Adam, they haven’t quite grabbed that opportunity to make the place their own. Now there might be an opportunity for someone else.

“If the guy who does it in UAE does well, he might keep the job. If you’re given that first chance and you grab it and score the runs, it’s very hard to leave a guy out.”

While England may not have fully decided how they will balance the side – Cook suggested Moeen is also being considered for the middle order – Adil Rashid is inked in to debut as a second spinner.

The pitches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah favour slow bowling and the Yorkshire leg-spinner should finally get his chance in the Test arena after years of false starts.

With him, Moeen and Ben Stokes all strong batsmen as well as bowlers, Cook has more options than ever before.

“We haven’t totally decided but we are pretty clear which way we want to go from the selection meeting,” he said.

“What is exciting about this team, we could go with two spinners and four seamers, including Ben Stokes, with Rash and Mo as bowling all-rounders.

“There’s a lot of flexibility in the squad which gives me as captain a lot of options, and that’s excluding Joe Root’s off-spin.

“We could have seven bowlers in 40-degree heat, tough conditions to play, and that’s quite an exciting thing for a captain.

“That’s what has given me some real optimism – we seem to have a lot of options covered. Clearly, that’s just on paper and it depends how we play and react to conditions.”

When England last toured the Emirate, their best laid plans went up in smoke.

In 2012 they were routed 3-0 by the twin spin threat of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, and Pakistan have still not lost a series in their adopted home.

Cook is one of four survivors from that series, alongside Ian Bell, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, and knows just how tough the challenge ahead will be.

“It’s definitely going to be a tricky tour in terms of how strong Pakistan are and their record in the UAE,” he admitted.

“You do learn lessons from last time but it happened quite a few years ago and this is a very different side.

“Clearly, that was a disappointing tour but we actually played some quite good cricket. I know it sounds strange when you lose 3-0 but we couldn’t get over the finishing hurdle.”

A pair of two-day warm-ups against Pakistan A represents scant preparation time for England to refine their methods, but Cook is not using that as an excuse.

“That’s what we’ve been given. Would we want more? Absolutely,” he said.

“The guys have just finished the one-day stuff versus Australia and now we’re going to the UAE, but that’s what modern cricket is and it’s up to the players to adapt. That’s why it is so hard to win away.

“It’s getting harder and harder.”

Published: Wednesday 30th September 2015 by The News Editor

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