Pitch report: Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Ends: Pavilion End, Sharjah Club End
Home Team: United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Pakistan
Test History: 8 Tests; 4 home wins; 3 away wins, 1 draw
Last 8 tosses: 7 batted first (3 wins, 3 defeats, 1 draw); 1 bowled first (1 loss)
Once the region’s premier cricket ground but lately playing third fiddle to its grander successors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium returned to Test cricket, after a nine-year break, in 2011.
The need for a third venue in the series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka brought an end to the hiatus – and a welcome opportunity to resign a shady history to the past.
Sharjah was at the centre of police boss Sir Paul Condon’s investigations into corruption in cricket around the turn of the century. His report did not conclusively single out the venue for fixing, but BBC correspondent Jonathan Agnew said in 2001: "I would swear under oath that two of the dozen or so matches I have witnessed on that desert ground over the years were fixed."
On the flipside, Sharjah tournament organiser and former Pakistan cricketer Asif Iqbal insisted: "To my mind, all the matches in Sharjah were fair and honest cricketing encounters."
Its alleged relations to fixing scandals and a subsequent lack of topflight cricket has seen the once swanky venue lose a lot of its shine, but recent development has gone a long way in restoring its former glory.
The scene of several high-profile triangular ODI affairs through the 1990s, the stadium serves as a conduit for The Cricketers Benefit Fund Series – established in 1981 by cricket patron Abdul Rahman Bukhatir as a means to honour past players from India and Pakistan and has also served as Afghanistan’s home ground since 2010.
Pakistan were rolled for the record-low, humiliating combo of 53 and 59 at the hands of Shane Warne in the second Test here in 2002.
Last Time out
Mohammad Hafeez powered Pakistan to victory with a big hundred after the hosts gave up a first innings lead.
England collapsed in the fourth innings on a turning track.
Happy Hunting Ground
No surprises here, Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan are the leading runscorers at this venue with the latter having scored 552 runs here.
Yasir Shah has taken 11 wickets in Sharjah in two Tests and needs five at the venue to level Shane Warne as the all-time leading wicket-taker at the ground.
No current West Indies players have played a Test here.
England fast bowler James Anderson: "In these conditions you've got to try and get something out of it as a seamer, you try all sorts of things. We've had the keeper up at different stages, you bowl offcutters and things like that.
"It has been frustrating as well because you need people to go after you on these wickets to get the chances, so that is why we've set certain fields and try to be aggressive with our plans."
Hot and dry or maybe dry and hot those are the possibilities.
Batting first will represent possibly the only chance the West Indies have at winning or even salvaging a draw from this Test and avoiding a complete shut out across all formats on this tour.
As the match wears on it will turn more and more and the seamers will have to work really hard to get anything from the surface.
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