LAHORE - As Pakistan have not lost a Test series in UAE since 2009, for England to win the forthcoming tour would be as much of an achievement as regaining the Ashes this summer - or beating South Africa away this winter.

"Yes, it's definitely going to be a tricky tour with their history – in terms of how strong Pakistan are and their record in the UAE," said Alastair Cook, the England captain as quoted by The Daily Telegraph. "I think they've played six or seven series and haven't lost one. That shows what is in front of us."

Since 2009, Pakistan have played seven test series in the UAE, winning three and drawing four, although they lost to Australia there in 2002. "The great thing in Test cricket is trying to win away from home," Cook said. "It's getting harder and harder."

In 2012, the only previous occasion England have made a Test tour of the Gulf, it was so hard that they lost 3-0. "This is a very different side," Cook volunteered as a defence. "Only four of us are going back. I think also that the pitches have changed a little. The matches seem to be a lot higher scoring than they were in 2012.

"After some of the cricket we've been involved with over the last 18 months, it would be wrong of me to say what I'm expecting. I don't think anybody knows what to expect. We have to go there with an open mind, not too many pre-conceived ideas. What I do know is that we have plenty of options in this squad.

"We haven't totally decided but we are pretty clear which way we want to go from the selection meeting. What is exciting about this team, we could go with two spinners and four seamers including Ben Stokes. That's what has given me some real optimism - we seem to have a lot of options covered. Clearly, that's just on paper and it depends how we play and react to conditions." Cook said.

"That's not the only way you can get all those bowlers into the team. Moeen can be moved up the order to five as well as the top of the order," Cook added. Instead of specialist spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, who won England's last away series in Asia in 2012, Cook has two spin-bowling all-rounders in Moeen and Adil Rashid.

"I'm confident they can take the wickets, but in a different way to Monty and Swanny," he said. "Moeen has had a fantastic start to his international career with his all-round contribution. He is not an out-and-out spinner in the way that Swanny does, he provides a lot of all-round value."

England have only two warm-up matches, each of two days. "We absolutely want more, the guys have just finished the one-day stuff against Australia and are now going to the UAE, but that's what modern cricket is and it's up to the players to adapt. That's why it is so hard to win away." Cook concluded.