Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heat Is Sure to Be on but England Have No Fears as They Return to 'Ring of Fire'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heat Is Sure to Be on but England Have No Fears as They Return to 'Ring of Fire'

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Stocks in Dubai

THEY call the floodlights that circle Dubai's Sports City Stadium the 'Ring of Fire' but Alastair Cook's clearest memory of the venue for this week's Second Test against Pakistan is likely to be the baptism of fire England received here in 2012.

England's captain was part of a team led by Andrew Strauss who arrived in the United Arab Emirates in January 2012 ranked No1 in the world having whitewashed India on home soil the previous summer.

That status, though, meant nothing when England came up against Pakistan's spinners, led by Saeed Ajmal, in their first Test since rising to the summit.

Strauss' side were routed for 192 and 160 as Pakistan went on to win the opening Test by 10 wickets and ultimately the series 3-0. Two very different teams will start the second match of this series tomorrow. But if Dubai's pitch offers the same assistance as in 2012 then England will face a tough examination, especially against Pakistan's returning leg spinner Yasir Shah.

England approach this match full of confidence after going so close to winning the First Test in Abu Dhabi. That confidence will be even greater after news today that Ben Stokes has recovered from a stomach bug that was serious enough to raise genuine fears he might miss this Second Test.

Stokes was absent from training yesterday with the virus he is believed to have picked up from his children, who, along with the other players' families, are staying with the team here.

He also did not attend a reception with his team-mates at the British High Commission in Dubai last night and it is understood Samit Patel, Nottinghamshire's spinning all-rounder, had been placed on standby in case Stokes did not make it.

Although England confirmed today the Durham all-rounder has recovered, Cook said they would delay a decision on him until the morning.

"Ben is a concern," said the captain.

"He's had a virus a 24-hour bug and didn't look well yesterday. He should be fine but we have to be careful in one sense. It depends how badly he has been knocked about five days in this heat you have to be 100 per cent before you start. I think he'll be fine but we will make a decision tomorrow morning. …

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