The first test was a big surprise.
I was honestly surprised by how well Hafeez batted, and how poorly England batted.
The big question now is if it was an aberration or a forming trend. England looked horrible in the ODI matches in India, but they often look horrible in ODI matches. This is because they are an awful ODI team. But perhaps it had something to do with being in Asia.
The English overall record in Asia over the past 5 years looks respectable, about 33. However once you remove Bangladesh from that equation, their average drops to 26.68.
Over the same time Pakistan have averaged 36.
England desperately require their batsmen (who are outstanding players) to make some runs here in Abu Dhabi.
The other big issue is where the wickets will come from. Abu Dhabi has been a graveyard for bowlers. Both spin bowlers and pace bowlers have averaged just over 49 in the 2 tests there. And they haven't been bad bowlers. Steyn 4/138, Herath 3/134, Sami 0/129. It is not a bowlers friend.
The bowlers that have been the most effective here have generally been swing bowlers, so there is some light there for England, but it is a dim glow.
There are a couple of things to look for:
1. Often players perform better in milestone matches. Cook and Strauss are playing their 100th innings together as an opening partnership. They are currently the 4th most prolific partnership, roughly 300 behind Atapatu and Jayasuria, who opened up 118 times. This could be time for a big one from these two.
2. Umar Gul and bad balls getting wickets. Gull managed to pick up 3 wickets off long hops in the 2nd innings. Often bowlers that have a batsman under pressure can bowl a bad delivery and pick up a wicket with it. It will be interesting to see if his wickets are from good deliveries or from bad deliveries after a period of pressure.
3. How will Panesar go? He looked more dangerous than Swann in the warm up matches, and Swann was the pick of the English bowlers in Dubai. This could be Monty's chance to take back his mantle.
4. Jonathan Trott. He will probably be asked to do a job with the ball as well as the bat in this match. His ability to create pressure with the ball may be crucial for England.
I would not recommend betting on too many options on this match. Much too unpredictable. The only one that I would recommend is going under on Strauss if he faces the first ball, and overs if he doesn't. (see last match's preview)