The attacking England vs the conservative Pakistan. It seems like a role reversal from recent years.
England have an interesting choice. I feel it's between Eion Morgan and Monty Panesar. Prior, Broad and Swann are a fantastic 7,8,9 but they would actually still be a very good 6,7,8. Having the extra bowler to spread the load, and particularly having an extra spin bolwer (and one who is in form) is not a bad look. However England got a lot of bowling out of Pietersen and Trott last year, and they might be keen on relying on them again, and keeping their line up as similar as possible.
Pakistan are likely to go into the match with 3 front line spinners, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammed Hafeez and Abdur Rehman. This will be interesting, as it will provide a good examination for England's batsmen new found confidence against spin. They have been improving solidly over the last few years against spin, but the conditions in Dubai might provide a point of difference.
England vs spin last 4 years:
It is hard to see where the wickets are going to come from, other than patience. In the last couple of years that matches have been played in UAE, only Junaid Khan has averaged under 30 with a strike rate under 60. (Welegedara got close). There are likely to be some big scores, particularly from the patient batsmen like Misbah-ul-Haq and Alister Cook.
Things to watch for:
1. Mohammed Hafeez. He has bowled like a genius recently. He doesn't have all the tricks like Saeed Ajmal, he just bowls really well. However his batting has slipped. Will he continue on his Dipak Patelesque journey from batsman who bowls a bit to bowler who bats a bit, or will he step up with the bat too?
2. Swann vs Ajmal. Two very different spinners, both capable of doing a lot of damage with the ball. Who will come out on top?
3. Wahab Riaz and Umar Gul. When they are on, both can be devastating bowlers. The Emerati air is not likely to help with the swing too much, but any assistance that is offered they will be sure to take advantage of.
4. Who faces the first ball for England? When he's been captain, Strauss has averaged 23 less when he faces the first ball than when he doesn't. It possibly takes him a while to switch out of the more macro captain thinking into the more micro opener thinking.
1. Top England batsman - Jonathan Trott $4.50. He averages 85 in the first match of a series. He likes to lay down a marker. He also averages 67 against Pakistan. Probably about a 30% probability.
2. Top Pakistan batsman - Younis Khan. $4.50, Misbah-ul-Haq $5.50. I'm actually going to take both here because I think that one of these two will be the top scorer. The conditions are likely to suit Misbah, but Younis has not averaged under 50 for a year since 2004, and he often does well in the first two games of a series. My split will be 20 on Misbah and 25 on Younis. It will return slightly more on Younis Khan, because I think he is slightly more likely to be top scorer.
3. Younis Khan to outscore Maohammad Hafeez $1.83. Seems easy money to me. Hafeez scored 143 against Bangladesh, but that is a slightly different prospect to playing Anderson, Broad and Tremlett with the new ball.
4. Pakistan not to win. $1.22. I see a draw as the most likely outcome here, but I can't see Pakistan getting England out cheaply twice.