Pitch report – Dubai International Cricket Stadium
We run the rule over the venue for the second and final Test between Pakistan and South Africa.
<b>Established:</b> 2009<br><b>Capacity:</b> 25,000<br><b>Floodlights:</b> Yes<br><b>Ends:</b> Emirates Road End, Dubai Sports City End<br><b>Home Team:</b> Pakistan<br><b>Test history:</b> 4 Tests (3 home wins, 1 draw)<br><b>4 Tosses:</b> 4 batted first (1 win, 1 draw, 2 defeats)
<b>Overview</b><br>One of four planned or completed stadiums in the ever-evolving Dubai Sports City, the world's first ever purpose-built athletic metropolis, Dubai International Cricket Stadium weighs in with plenty of impressive numbers.
Flanked by football, basketball, ice hockey, volleyball, handball and netball facilities, the 25,000-seater boasts an unsurpassed 350 floodlights across its 'ring of fire'.
Unique in that its lighting is lavished entirely across the stadium's stands rather than individual pylons, the ground brags arguably the best playing visibility across the planet.
A 30-floor, five-star hotel, state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard, shaded rafters for every single spectator, oversized dressing rooms, a voluptuous media centre, gymnasiums, swimming pools and a world-class drainage system – the plush, excessive desert oasis has it all.
<i>Reuters</i> news agency has quoted "informed sources" suggesting the PCB are remunerated 800,000 pounds for each event in Dubai, so it's little wonder they are happy to act as pseudo 'hosts' while their real home grounds are without international cricket.
<b>Last Time Out</b><br>The first team to win in Dubai after opting to bat first, Pakistan capped a three-nil whitewash of England in February 2012. All out for a mere 99, the Pakistanis then rolled the English for 141.
The third innings, true to the character of the pitch, brought the most runs, as centuries from Ali and Younis brought the hosts 365 all out. England's final reply amounted to a mere 252 all out – for a 71-run defeat inside four days. Spin, ultimately, accounted for 25 of the 40 wickets to fall.
<b>Happy Hunting Ground</b><br><b>Azhar Ali</b> and <b>Younis Khan</b> lead the batting pack here, sporting averages of 67.83 and 77.80 respectively in four matches each. Bowling-wise, <b>Saeed Ajmal's</b> 28 wickets in four fixtures have come at an average of just 19.03 – some seven runs less than his career aggregate.
<b>Jacques Kallis</b>, meanwhile, boasts an inflated ground average of 208 – thanks to an unbeaten century and half-ton in 2010. <b>Morne Morkel</b> took five wickets in that game, despite the flat conditions.
<b>They Said</b><br>"The pitch characteristics have changed. There were less wicket-taking balls around than there were yesterday. It was quite easy to see that." – England captain <b>Alastair Cook</b> after day two of the third Test in 2012.
"The pitch is much better for batting. The first day was difficult with the ball seaming around. It seems like a totally different pitch now." -Pakistan batsman <b>Younis Khan</b> concurs with Cook.
"It's not easy to score freely on this pitch. The track is slow and if you try to score fast you could end up playing a silly shot and losing your wicket. On this pitch you have to take your time. This is the kind of pitch where one good spell can run through a batting line-up." – Pakistan batsman <b>Azhar Ali</b>.
<b>Weather</b><br>Much like Abu Dhabi – no rain, little wind, heavy humidity and temperatures in excess of 33 degrees Celsius the five days, all and sundry are in for a taxing five days of Test cricket. The stifling weather, too, is likely to bake a pitch expected to be placid into utter submission.
<b>Conclusion</b><br>Like a fine wine, the pitch appears to be improving over time.
That's not to say that the ball is darting about, but it tends to do just enough to reward good bowling if batsmen aren't willing to be patient.
England tried to force the pace too much last time out and paid dearly, and were perhaps overly cagey against spin.
This is the ideal opportunity for Graeme Smith and his men to brush up their techniques against spin – something which is clearly needed ahead of a series against India.
Pakistan will doubtless go in with two spinners once again, while South Africa will probably follow suit.
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