Cricket

Australia vs Pakistan: Visitors' blend of young and experienced batting vs Aussies' formidable bowling attack to headline Test series

  • Gaurav Joshi
  • November 20th, 2019
  • 14:40:57 IST

Until last summer, wining a series in Australia were considered an improbable task for every sub-continent nation. India changed that despite having never won here before. Pakistan now arrives hoping to replicate India's success from 12 months ago.

Australia skipper Tim Paine and his Pakistan counterpart Azhar Ali pose with the trophy. Image: Twitter @TheRealPCB

Australia skipper Tim Paine and his Pakistan counterpart Azhar Ali pose with the trophy. Image: Twitter @TheRealPCB

There are more unknowns about the Pakistan unit to that from India, but with Misbah Ul-haq taking over as the coach and young fast bowling attack there is a still a level of excitement that makes you wonder if they too can somehow create history?

The admission of Misbah as the head coach and as a selector means he has all the powers. As a selector he has picked a squad that is capable of beating Australia. The batting is a blend of experience, youth and Babar Azam.

The talented Azam is at a batting prime age and looks destined to scale the peaks. At 25, he has played 21 Tests and has the luxury of playing in Australia. In 2016 Azam had an unproductive series with 68 runs in six innings, but that was the unrefined version.

This time around Azam is more accomplished as a batsman and as a cricketer. He can bat for substantial amount of time, he plays the percentages and he is technically equipped to play off the back-foot. Importantly, he will be better suited to batting at No.5, a position, he will occupy during the series.

Then there is Azhar Ali, who scored a double ton in Melbourne last time and Asad Shafiq with his 137 in the fourth innings at the Gabba that nearly won Pakistan the Test. Shan Masood showed glimpse of his skills in South Africa last summer and Imam-Ul haq has all the potential to succeed as an opener. Deep down, Misbah and Pakistan know that they need a score 350+ scores in the first innings.

Two of the top six batsmen need to make over 300 runs in the two-Test series.

But above all it is the fast bowling cavalry that has taken the Australian public by storm. Guiding them is no other than the legendary Waqar Younis. The fast bowlers are young, highly skilful and each one is unique.

Shaheen Afridi is the tallest of the lot and provides the angle as a left armer. Mohammad Abbas with his surgeon like precision sliced through Australia on the benign surfaces of Dubai and will be a handful.

Then there are the baby boomers – Naseem Shah and Mohammad Musa. They are skiddy and rapid. There is so much assurance on the fast bowlers that Pakistan is even contemplating dropping ace spinner Yasir Shah.

After a long off-season campaign in England the Aussies are finally looking forward to playing at home. The ‘Gabba’ remains a fortress for Australia with the home side remaining undefeated in Brisbane for 31 years.

It is a place not for the light hearted and opposition team are constantly bullied into submission by the pace and bounce of the Gabba pitch. Playing the first Test of the series here is like already starting one set ahead in a tennis match.

Coach Justin Langer has embedded a real workman like culture in the past year, but he is still yet to forge together a batting unit that can score runs on a consistent basis. There is far too much importance on Steve Smith and Pakistan will believe if they topple the premier batsman then they could be a realistic chance of winning at least one Test.

There will be plenty of eyes on Marnus Labuschagne, the Australian No 3 who had a superb Ashes series and has been in red-hot form leading into the series. If Labuschagne can stamp his authority at No 3 and the highly-rated Travis Head can accumulate runs in the middle order then the Australian batting has a sense of security about it.

For the first time since his debut, David Warner will feel the pinch as an opener. The southpaw only managed 97 runs from 10 outings in the Ashes and another poor series against Pakistan could potentially lead to an axing. It says a lot about the Australian batting when despite drawing the Ashes series 2-2, only two batsmen were guaranteed a spot in the eleven – Smith and Labuschagne.

But while the batting looks circumspect the bowling looks formidable. Pat Cummins is the ranked the No.1 in the world, Josh Hazlewood with a slight twinge in his action was back to his supreme best during the Ashes and Mitch Starc is primed for a huge series after featuring in one Ashes test.

Then there is Nathan Lyon, the glue that binds the potent bowling unit. It took a gallant effort from India to break apart this star studded Australian bowling and Pakistan will need to combat the tough phases with some relentless batting.

Three years ago, Pakistan was whitewashed 3-0. In the last 38 years with players such as Wasim Akram, Waqar, Saqlain, Misbah, Miandad and Younis at the helm they could only salvage one Test victory in Australia.

So despite the coaching revamp, the emergence of a new crop of fast bowlers it is difficult to see the visitors notching up a Test win let alone a series. Australia start as warm favourites but as is often the case with Pakistan, you can never say 'never'.

Updated Date: November 20, 2019 14:40:57 IST

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