Ben Stokes reported for training on Wednesday with Alastair Cook hopeful he will be fit after a suffering a stomach illness in the build-up to the second Test in Dubai. However, Cook added that Stokes would need to be 100% fit given the oppressive conditions.
Stokes was laid low on Tuesday and missed a function at the British Consulate in Dubai. A decision on whether he will play is not expected to be taken until the morning of the match.
Stokes’ absence would be a significant blow for England. He took four wickets, scored a half-century, and produced a brilliant run-out of Mohammad Hafeez that helped set up England’s unlikely victory push on the final afternoon in Abu Dhabi.
If he unable to play, then the spin-bowling allrounder Samit Patel is the likeliest replacement, with Cook in favour of a variety of bowling options. There is an outside chance that Patel will come into consideration anyway if the pitch looks heavily in favour of spin, but Cook indicated that this was an unlikely route.
“Ben’s a concern, but everyone else has pulled up pretty well,” Cook said. “He’s had a 24-hour bug, he didn’t look very well yesterday apparently but he’s here now and we’ll see.
“He should be fine, but we have to be careful – it depends how badly he has been knocked about – because five days in this heat you need to be 100% before you start. We’ll play it by ear and make a decision tomorrow morning.”
If Stokes recovers England are set to name an unchanged XI after coming within 25 runs of victory in the first Test in Abu Dhabi.
“I haven’t seen the pitch yet, whether it’s a three-spinner wicket here,” Cook said. “We have to have a look at that option but my gut is we’ll stay the same.”
Fielding six bowlers – four quicks and two spinners, even before Joe Root is factored in – has given Cook a host of options and meant that none of the fast bowlers had to be over-bowled in the heat.
Pakistan, meanwhile, will welcome back legspinner Yasir Shah who went through a full session of batting, bowling and fielding after suffering a back spasm on the eve of the first Test. However, they will again be without Azhar Ali who has returned to Pakistan after the death of his mother-in-law. It means that Shan Masood, who failed twice in Abu Dhabi, is likely to be retained.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.