–Pakistan look to make up for lost opportunity in first Test
ABU DHABI: Tim Paine’s Australia are confident after their thrilling draw in Dubai, and the pressure will be on Sarfraz Ahmed’s Pakistan to make the most of home conditions and wrap up the series.
Australia’s great escape in the first Test in Dubai was one for the ages, but Pakistan will be looking at it as an opportunity lost. Their proud record of never having lost a series in their adopted home in the United Arab Emirates since 2009 was broken when Sri Lanka visited last, winning 2-0. The hosts will want to sort that record out.
In the drawn Test in Dubai, Pakistan can be accused of not pressing for the win when the Australians were down. But there are few individual performances that can be faulted. They had contributions with the bat through the order, while their bowlers asked all the right questions with both reverse swing and spin. The pressure will be on captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who after the Asia Cup disappointment, wouldn’t want to apologise to the fans again.
They have been forced to make a change, with opener Imam-ul-Haq fracturing his finger. Azhar Ali could come up the order in his place and will be hoping to rediscover his form.
“The key to batting will be to be patient and look for opportunities to score and try and absorb the pressure,” Ali said. “It is the key even when you are facing the new ball or batting in any time of the day. The important thing is to stay focused and try and believe that once you get a good knock behind you, things will start rolling again.”
Australia’s fighting draw hid some chinks they will want to iron out quickly. The middle order still looks shaky, with the Marsh brothers not making contributions of note in the first Test. It could mean a shake-up in the batting order, Paine said.
There were also some concerns with the fitness of Mitchell Starc, although the bowler himself has dismissed suggestions that he needs a rest. Starc and fellow pacer Peter Siddle had a considerable workload in the first innings, but they weren’t always as effective as Pakistan’s Mohammad Abbas.
But in Usman Khawaja, who made a record-breaking fourth-innings century, they have a template of how to tackle the spin attack and the assurance that with some application, their plans do work.
And if they do work, the reward is huge: a rare win in Asia. Said Paine, “Not many people gave us a chance over here which a great opportunity to prove people wrong. It’s a great thing to keep driving us. We are trying to get better every day and if we manage to play our best next week, then maybe that’s possible.”
Pakistan’s Mohammad Abbas and Mitchell Marsh of Australia are the two key players in the second Test.
Sunny skies are expected in Abu Dhabi with temperatures of around 33°C. Players were greeted with a green top a couple of days before the Test, but that might not last, and the surface is expected to aid spin as usual.
AUSTRALIA: Tim Paine (capt), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
PAKISTAN: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt), Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Mir Hamza