PAK vs AUS -1st Test
Location: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
Preview by Pradeep
Pakistan began life without Saeed Ajmal in the ODI series against Australia and were promptly whitewashed by a 3-0 margin. The two teams have now switched gears, from coloured clothing to whites. The demands of a Test match is even more when compared to that of ODIs. Pakistan has been overly dependent on Ajmal in recent times, and his absence leaves a big hole to fill.
On the other hand, Australia have had a great run in Tests and have reclaimed the number one ranking, thanks to their stunning victory against England at home, followed by the 2-1 series win against South Africa away. The challenge against Pakistan is different. They will be up against an attack loaded with spin and on surfaces that are alien to their own. Australia's last visit to Asia ended in disaster, but under Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke's men have ticked all boxes.
Turmoil is the only word that can best describe Pakistan's cricket at the moment. Already struggling without Ajmal, Pakistan lost the services of both Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz to injuries. In a strange move, the selectors left out experienced left-arm spinner, Abdul Rehman, leaving the bowling attack short of experience and class. The Pakistan selectors have re-affirmed their faith in youth, and there has been maiden international call-ups for leg-spinner, Yasir Shah, and pace bowler, Imran Khan.
Zulfiqar Babar returns to the Test squad while Mohammad Hafeez is back after passing a fitness test. There are not many changes in the batting line-up, although middle-order batsman, Umar Akmal, continues to remain ignored. Younis Khan is back despite his recent outbursts against the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), following his exclusion from the ODI team.
If Pakistan have had their share of injury-related worries, the visitors have been buoyed by the prospect of their skipper, Michael Clarke, returning. All-rounder, Mitchell Marsh, who was tipped to make his Test debut, has recovered nicely from his hamstring strain and is likely to take the number six slot. The rest of the batting line-up has settled itself nicely, although Clarke would have been slightly concerned at their toothless display in the four-day practice match against Pakistan 'A'.
With spin expected to play a big role, Steve O'Keefe is likely to partner Nathan Lyon as the second spinner. With Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle guaranteed selections, the bowling looks settled for the moment. David Warner was rested from the practice game as a precautionary measure and should return at the top of the order. Alex Doolan was impressive in the practice match, making a composed hundred, and should edge Phil Hughes for the final batting spot.
Pakistan coach, Waqar Younis, had insisted on a dry pitch and should be happy with the look of the square. The spinners should come into play early on and there will be reverse swing on offer.
I think that's our greatest challenge, the fact that the wickets are so much slower than what we're used to in Australia - Michael Clarke recognizes the challenge lying ahead for his team.
It was good to see youngsters doing well there and, yes, it definitely has given us an edge or a boost, because we have seen some weaknesses which can be good for us in the Tests ? Waqar Younis says Pakistan 'A' beating Australia is a good omen for his team.
Pakistan (From): Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq(c), Younis Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed(w), Ehsan Adil, Haris Sohail, Imran Khan, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Azhar Ali, Taufeeq Umar, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar
Australia (From): David Warner, Chris Rogers, Michael Clarke(c), Alex Doolan, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin(w), Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Steve O'Keefe, Mitchell Starc, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Glenn Maxwell