Gooch says England`s ability against spin will be key

Dubai: England batting coach Graham Gooch said the side`s ability to cope with Pakistan`s spin threat is likely to determine the Test series after watching most of his charges struggle to cope with Pakistan Cricket Board XI leg-spinner Yasir Shah on Wednesday.

In England`s final three-day warm-up match before the opening Test begins next Tuesday, Shah took five for 76 as the world`s top team in the longest form of the game battled to 269 for nine before declaring.

Alastair Cook made 133 but no other batsman reached 50 as Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell both failed to score and Eoin Morgan made 11, giving him a total of 15 runs from three innings on tour. The PCB XI responded with 23 for no wicket by the close of the first day.

"We continue to seek to improve against all types of bowling but spin is going to play a big part here," Gooch told reporters.

"We have got to get our heads around how we are going to cope with that and each player has got to work out his own game (plan)."

"I am not unduly concerned that it is going to be difficult for us but if we are going to prevail then we have got to cope with that."

Shah is unlikely to get a call-up for Pakistan`s Test squad because the squad already includes experienced spinners Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman.

Off-spinner Ajmal took 18 wickets in three matches against Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates in October and November and has reportedly been working on a new delivery, the `teesra`, to try to outwit the England batsmen.

Shah said Pakistan regarded England`s play against spin as their Achilles heel.

"England is one of the best batting sides but sometimes they struggle against spinners so we have a very good chance to get them out in the Test matches.

"My target was to get five wickets against England...I am very pleased to do that and my confidence has gone up," he said.

Gooch said that although several of England`s top-order players had struggled to score runs on the tour so far, he retained confidence in them.

"One or two of them will be disappointed not to spend more time in the middle but it is not the time to panic," he said.

"We know this happens regularly and I do not think it is time to start changing the way you think. You have got to believe in yourself, hopefully get another knock and it will come good.

"Our unit has done pretty well in the past, they have all had success (and) so they have got to stay strong mentally and believe. You don`t become a bad player over a couple of innings."

Cook faced 260 balls and hit 10 fours in an innings that spanned more than five hours and followed his 76 against an ICC XI last Saturday.

On a slow pitch that assisted spin bowling, his main support came from Kevin Pietersen (38) and Matt Prior (46), the latter returning to action after missing England`s previous match with a bruised left index finger.

Also back in the side was fast bowler Chris Tremlett, who missed the match against the ICC XI with a sore eye. Monty Panesar came into the line-up to bowl alongside fellow spinner Graeme Swann.

Bureau Report