There has been a lot of suggestion ahead of England’s series against Pakistan that there will be a lot of spin on offer in the pitches and that England will struggle. Leaving aside the question of how well the batsmen will play said spin (though it’s a very good one) it also begs the question of whether the predictions about the wickets will be accurate. The UAE is not technically on the subcontinent, though it is only separated from Pakistan by a narrow body of water, and it is not a given that the pitches will thus be a spinning paradise.
Since the start of 2010, spinners in the UAE have performed very slightly better than their seam bowling colleagues. Each have taken 68 wickets in those five matches, but the spinners have done so at an average of 41.51 as opposed to the seamers’ average of 42.32. There’s not much of a difference, and certainly neither are very good. When you consider the fact that the spinners bowled a lot more overs, it is clear that the seamers are still the more successful bowlers. The spinners’ strike rate was 99.0, compared to the 79.5 of the seamers. (Again we see that neither are very good.) The gap is certainly a lot smaller than it is in England, were over the same period of time spinners took less than a quarter of the total wickets and at an average more than ten runs greater than the seamers.
Interestingly, however, when directly compared spinners have actually fared better in England than in the UAE. In England since the start of 2010, spinners have taken wickets at an average of 39.12 and a strike rate of 69.0 (compare to the above figures in the UAE). That time period comprises 15 Tests in which spinners have taken seven five-fers. In the five matches in that time in the UAE spinners took just one five wicket haul. The implication I take from these figures is that the conditions will hurt all bowlers, but it will hurt the seamers much more than the spinners. So whilst the spinners will have a larger role to play (relative to their role in England) they are not going to get so much help from the pitch that they become an unusually large threat to the batsmen.