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England braced for Pakistan challenge in UAE

Home side will be without Azhar Ali, with Yasir Shah also in doubt; Steven Finn to miss out for England

England braced for Pakistan challenge in UAE - Cricket News
England celebrate Michael Clarke's dismissal.
Pakistan’s hopes of an encore of 2012 received a setback with Yasir Shah, the ace leg-spinner, doubtful for the first Test against England starting on Tuesday (October 12).
Yasir collapsed while bending down to field a ball during practice on Monday morning after his spikes got stuck in the turf, and hobbled off the ground clutching his back. Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, said Yasir had experienced a back spasm, and would be assessed on the morning of the match before a call is taken on whether he is fit to play.
Zafar Gohar, the uncapped 20-year-old left-arm spinner, has been called up as cover for Yasir. Gohar has played just eight first-class games and picked up 37 wickets, though he did have a decent time in the two warm-up games against the Englishmen last week. He took 3 for 72 from 22 overs in the first game in Sharjah, his victims including Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jos Buttler. In the second game, also in Sharjah when the Englishmen were shot out for 198, he had both Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett stumped on his way to figures of 2 for 47 from 16 overs.
There was an injury update from the England camp as well, with Steven Finn, the paceman, ruled out with a stress injury to his left foot. Finn made a return to Test cricket after two years away during the third Test against Australia in Birmingham and took six wickets in the second innings to cap his comeback, and England will be hoping he will be ready to play in the second Test, starting on October 22.

The last time the two sides met in the UAE, Pakistan had aced England, then ranked No. 1 in the ICC Test rankings, completing a 3-0 sweep with spinners Saeed Ajmal (24 wickets) and Abdul Rehman (19 wickets) doing most of the damage.
England, however, is a different team now, and on a high following the 3-2 Ashes triumph over Australia. Taking on Pakistan in the UAE, however, is a big challenge, and Alastair Cook, the England captain, acknowledged that on the eve of the first Test. “I think they have played six or seven series and haven't lost a series,” said Cook, one of four survivors of the 2012 series. “That shows what is in front of us. The great thing in Test cricket is trying to win away from home. It's getting harder and harder.”
Pakistan's batting will revolve around Younis Khan, Misbah and Sarfraz Ahmed, who have been in great form in the last 12 months. Younis amassed 468 runs against Australia and hit a match-winning 171 not out in Pakistan's last Test in Sri Lanka, leaving him just 19 behind Javed Miandad’s record of most Test runs by a Pakistan batsman.
Pakistan will also be without Azhar Ali, who was ruled out due to a foot infection, which had forced him to miss the third and final One-Day International against Zimbabwe last week as well. His place is likely to go to Shoaib Malik, who has not played a Test for five years but was called back to the squad after a run of great form in limited-overs cricket.
Adil Rashid, the legspinner who is set to make his Test debut six years after playing his first ODI, fronts England’s answer to Pakistan’s spin challenge.
Moeen Ali is in the lead to play as opener in a makeshift arrangement, despite never having opened even in a first-class match, with additional duties of bowling off-spin.
Dubai will host the second Test (October 22-26), with the final match scheduled for Sharjah (November 1-5). Click here for full schedule.
Teams (from):

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Mohammad Hafeez, Fawad Alam, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan, Rahat Ali, Junaid Khan, Zafar Gohar.

England: Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Samit Patel, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, Mark Wood.

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