Ali opens and Rashid starts warm-up, while Pakistan recall Malik
England’s preparations for their bid to be the first Test team to beat Pakistan in the UAE are now underway, as Trevor Bayliss’ men recorded 286-5 on the first day of their warm-up tour match. They are 9/4 outsiders with Coral to win the first match on October 13th, and 5/2 for the series.
Following opener Adam Lyth being dropped from the squad, after a miserable showing in the summer Ashes with Australia, Mooen Ali was the man that was tested at the top of the order against Pakistan A. However, the spinning all-rounder failed to really impress in his first audition after hitting just 22 runs.
Alastair Cook has long been looking for an opener partner, since Andrew Strauss, after the likes of Sam Robson, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott and Lyth have all tried but failed to cement a long-term place.
While Ali is likely to be given another chance, he knows that Alex Hales is waiting in the wings, but has the pressure off slightly as he knows his place in the side is all-but assured down the order anyway.
If Worcestershire’s Ali is picked for the first of three Tests against Pakistan, he is a 6/1 shout to be best batsman for the visitors in the first innings. Hales, meanwhile, is more fancied at 11/2.
Elsewhere in the team, Adil Rashid was also given a run-out, and the Yorkshireman hit an impressive unbeaten 51 to prove he is as good with the bat as he is with the ball. The leg spinner is a longer 25/1 shout in the batting market, and 7/2 to be best England bowler, if given his Test debut.
Rashid’s county teammates were also impressive with the bat, as superstar Joe Root got 59 and Jonny Bairstow is still in on 66. The latter is keen to stake his claim as the team’s wicketkeeper, after rival Jos Buttler continued his poor Test form by being trapped out LBW for just 1.
Bairstow, who was recently named Cricket Writers’ Club Player of Year after helping Yorkshire top a second successive County Championship title, is 13/2 to be top first innings England batsman at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Root is the favourite at 3/1.
Captain Cook also looked in good touch, as he ground out 53 from 130 balls, so is a 4/1 chance in the same market.
For Pakistan, meanwhile, they have interestingly decided to recall former national skipper Shoaib Malik for the 16-man squad.
The all-rounder, now 33, last appeared in this format of the game five years, also against England when he managed a total of just 53 from his four innings on away soil.
Malik has never managed a 50 or century against his side’s upcoming opponents in nine Test innings attempts, but gets the nod after some highly impressive ODI form having scored 500 runs at an average of 100 in 11 matches.
Hosts Pakistan are the 5/4 favourites to win the first Test, and odds-on at 5/6 to claim the series. A draw is 2/1 and 3/1 in those respective markets.