Strauss must use warm-up games to hone bowling attack

Andy Lloyd
ENGLAND may have only jetted into Dubai on Monday just a fortnight ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, but as ever under the meticulous guidance of head coach Andy Flower I’m confident they’ll have timed their preparations to perfection.

Two weeks might seem like a quick turn around, but these England Test players were in desperate need of a lengthy break following last year’s exploits in Australia and at home against Sri Lanka and India.

I’m sure all the sports scientists and fitness experts will have considered not just this series but the one in Sri Lanka, as well as a hectic summer, and came to the decision arriving earlier this week was the best course of action.

I know some of the bowlers have been away doing some intensive conditioning and the spotlight is likely to fall on them in the two warm-up games, the first of which starts on Saturday against an ICC Combined Associate and Affiliate XI.

With Pakistan only recently having been granted permission to stage their home series in the Emirates there isn’t much form to go on, but what little evidence there is suggests it’s going to be a slog for England’s seamers, particularly at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in the second Test.

I expect England to experiment to a degree in the two practice matches which could essentially boil down to a shoot-out between Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan, Steven Finn and possibly even Monty Panesar for the one bowling spot potentially up for grabs.

As the leading spinner in world cricket Graeme Swann is nailed on to start the first Test, while the same is true of Jimmy Anderson and, despite his checkered injury record, Stuart Broad, too.

At this moment in time it’s impossible to say who will get the nod with each of Finn, whose performances during the one-day series in India late last year were seriously encouraging, the hostile Tremlett (left) and ever-reliable Bresnan possessing strong cases to be included.

There is, of course, the intriguing prospect of a second spinning option with forgotten man Panesar having been included in the squad, but conditions would have to be pretty extreme for him to be included.

As for the top six in the batting line-up – an order that is set in stone following Eoin Morgan’s recovery from shoulder surgery – it’s about spending time in the middle and acclimatising to the sort of conditions England traditionally struggle in.

Andy Lloyd is a former England Test cricketer and captain of Warwickshire who made 17,211 first-class career runs.