England captain Alastair Cook is keeping his cards close to his chest as to the identity of his new opening batting partner but is not averse to opting for Moeen Ali in the United Arab Emirates before switching to Alex Hales in South Africa.
Moeen and Hales are vying to accompany Cook at the top of the order, with Adam Lyth joining the growing list of discards after failing to grasp his opportunity during the Ashes.
Moving off-spinner Moeen from number eight in the order would open another bowling slot for England on the turning tracks in the UAE, where they play three Test matches against Pakistan, the first of which starts on October 13.
SIGN UP NOW
Want to become a GMS writer? Sign up now and submit a 250 word test article: https://gms.to/haveyoursay4
Yet Nottinghamshire powerhouse Hales is seen as the better option in the proceeding series against the Proteas on what will be much faster wickets.
With the prospect of playing on vastly different surfaces over the next few months, Cook believes England would be wise to adopt a flexible approach.
He told Sky Sports News HQ: "The conditions are quite unique and I think we have to cover our bases quite a bit.
"We might have to do a short-term option; it might be that Mo opens the batting in this series and doesn't open in South Africa, or Alex takes his chance in the warm-up game and we go with that balance of the side.
"We have options, we've got to be pretty clear early on on the tour what we're going to do. We have got our ideas, but we haven't chatted with the lads."
Moeen revealed he would relish the opportunity to open against Pakistan, but added he would be content to remain at eight in the order as well.
"I'm pretty happy wherever, I'd love to open in the UAE if I got the opportunity, but I'm happy at eight," he said.
"If the captain and the coach wanted me to open I'd be happy to do that."
The position of joining Cook at the top of the order has become something of a poisoned chalice following Andrew Strauss' retirement in 2012.
Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson, Jonathan Trott and now Lyth have all struggled to make a convincing case for their continued selection as opener.
While Lyth was able to make a century on his home ground of Headingley against New Zealand, he made just 115 runs at 12.77 in the Ashes and has been overlooked for the UAE tour.
Cook added: "It's a little bit frustrating. The guys all had a really good taste of it and all did okay without anyone grabbing it and making it their own, and that's the chance for whoever gets it next.
"It's a big step from county cricket to international cricket and opening the batting as well, you're playing against the best bowlers with the new ball. It's a pretty tough job.
"No-one has quite nailed their opportunity."