Twenty-four hours ago, the Australian and Pakistan players were greeted at the Abu Dhabi cricket stadium with a 22-yard strip that had resembled a putting green on a golf course. By Monday the pitch had changed its characteristic dramatically. It was no longer an oasis in the desert, at least for the Australian fast bowlers. The grass had been trimmed and the brown look ensured it was easily distinguished in the playing arena.
The Australians might have been surprised, but they are aware that by the time the coin is tossed on Tuesday, the surface will play in a traditional Abu Dhabi manner. Run scoring will be trouble-free for the first three days, the bounce and the carry will be limited, and patience will be the virtue to success with bat and ball. The lush square also means reverse swing might not be as prominent as Dubai and fast bowlers will need to find alternative methods to dislodge the batsmen.
Endurance along with skill typified Australia's success story in Dubai, but the big challenge for the visitors would be to back it up again in four days time. Justin Langer stated after the match, keeping the players refreshed and energised will be the toughest challenge. From all accounts, Australia will head into the Test match with the same line-up, although there is a strong chance that the batting order will be re-jigged.
Travis Head is expected to be promoted to No 4 after his resilient knock in the second innings while Mitchell Marsh is likely to drop to No 5. Despite misfiring in his Test debut, Marnus Labuschagne will retain his spot at No.6, meaning Matthew Renshaw will be the 12th man again.
While Australia might have pulled off a mighty rescue act with the bat in Dubai, there is still the question mark on if they can take 20 wickets to win a Test match. John Holland was attacked savagely by the Pakistan batsmen, Mitchell Starc went wicket-less and Nathan Lyon didn't threaten as much as anticipated. The bowling unit needs to raise their game and find a solution on the benign pitches if they are to claim a series victory.
The confidence will be up, the faith will be overflowing, but as Langer revealed – Test cricket is taxing and mentally draining. The young guns proved they belonged to the arena, but Australia will need the experienced Shaun Marsh to regain his form in Abu Dhabi if they are to bat well in both innings of the game.
If the Australians will be full of belief, then Pakistan will still be thinking about the one that got away. The draw in Dubai has only compounded the uncertainties for the captain, Sarfraz Ahmed. The wicket-keeping batsmen had a poor outing tactically and need to be proactive in the second Test. The disappointment of Asia Cup is still firmly on the horizon and Sarfraz is well and truly under the pump as a skipper.
Pakistan is likely to make two changes to their playing XI. Imam-ul-Haq's broken finger means Fakhar Zaman will replace him at the top while Mir Hamza, the left arm paceman from Karachi is expected to take the place of Wahab Riaz.
One man that needs to improve vastly from his previous outing is Yasir Shah. The talented leg-spinner played his first Test in more than a year in Dubai and looked off colour. However, he did find some good rhythm in the last session of the fifth day. Pakistan will be hoping the amount of overs Yasir delivered in the first Test is bound to bring the best out of their key wicket-taker.
On the brighter note, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq average in excess of 50 at Abu Dhabi and the form of Haris Sohail means there is solidarity in the Pakistan batting. The hosts will also take plenty of confidence in the manner they handled Lyon and Starc. The pair is seen as Australia's biggest threat, but apart from a couple of spells, the Pakistan batsmen handled their opponents with ease.
Pakistan also has more experience in the line-up and the short turnaround is bound to provide them with a significant advantage over Australia. The heat will be a factor again, but the square boundaries are devoid of any stands which allow for a breeze flow across the ground.
The Test match marks an important time in terms of the future for both teams. If Australia is to win, it will be their first series victory in Asia since 2011. As Australian captain Tim Paine said, "It'd be a massive thing (series win) for any Australian side and for this one in particular. I touched on it last week that not many people gave us a chance over here, which is a great opportunity for us to prove people wrong and a great thing to keep driving us."
For Pakistan, a loss in second Test could mean two things. One, a different Test captain. Also, no longer would a team fear to play them in the United Arab Emirates, their home away from home.