Durham Ace Mustard Assesses England Tour of UAE; England Play Test Cricket in the United Arab Emirates for the First Time Today. Phil Mustard, Who Played There for Durham in 2010, Tells Them - and Stuart Rayner - What to Expect
TODAY England add a new name to the list of countries they have played Test cricket in.
For the first time in their 135-year history, the Three Lions are due to play a five-day match in the United Arab Emirates, which hosts a three-match series against Pakistan.
Short on cricketing pedigree, it was unknown territory to most of the squad - except perhaps as a holiday destination - when they arrived a fortnight ago.
Durham, though, have been there, got the T-shirt.
In 2010 the then-county champions played the English season's traditional curtain-raiser against MCC in the very untraditional surroundings of Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Zayed Stadium, venue for next week's second Test.
Although the Riversiders played in cooler conditions under floodlights, Phil Mustard saw enough to know England will feel the heat in the coming weeks. Without injured all-rounder Tim Bresnan, he worries they may not find the right formula to combat it.
Under coach Andy Flower, England have stuck to a simple blueprint of six batsmen, one wicketkeeper, three seamers and a spinner. Durham captain Mustard, who made 12 limited-overs appearances for England in 2008, wonders if it is the right approach in the UAE.
"It's totally different to playing in England because it's so humid and it can really get hot as well," says the 29-year-old, who made a second-innings 50 in Durham's 311-run win. "The pitches tend to be quite flat, although they can turn a bit later in the game.
"In the last Test series there Sri Lanka's spinners seemed to be able to turn it a bit on the last couple of days but there was no bounce. It's much closer to Pakistan's home conditions than England's.
"England's seamers have been really solid for the last couple of years. They're a really good unit. It's a different challenge for them.
"We decided to only use our seamers in short bursts of four or five overs. You have to look after your seamers. It's going to be a big ask for them."
Monty Panesar's 8-103 against a PCB XI last week was a timely reminder he can support Graeme Swann in the spin department but his legendary ineptitude with the bat makes finding a place in the side harder, especially since Bresnan's elbow injury.
"Bresnan's going to be a big miss," says Mustard. "He gives you a little bit of batting as well and it's going to be harder to get a good balance because they haven't really got a batting allrounder. "Andy Flower, Andrew Strauss and the back-up team need to really look at the pitch and conditions and really think about the side they're going to pick. …