Pakistan vs Australia: First Test Preview

Cricket ball sits on pitch

Pakistan prepare to host Australia in their adopted home in the United Arab Emirates as the overwhelming favourites, given the upheaval in the opposing camp.

Australia are giving serious consideration to naming four new Test caps in their XI for the first time since the World Series Cricket split in the 1970s.

Pakistan vs Australia | 7 October - 11 October | Dubai International Stadium

To Win Match
Pakistan 1/1
Draw 15/4
Australia 7/4

Pakistan lost patience with Mohammad Amir and dropped the struggling quick after he suffered a massive dip in form across all three formats. Amir had asked to be rested for the tour of Zimbabwe, but was denied that request - and will now be afforded some time to reflect and consider how best to break back into the team.

Veteran left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz has been called in to replace Amir. This Test series could be Wahab's last chance to prove his ability to win matches for Pakistan in the ultimate format.

Australia highlighted the importance of Azhar Ali's wicket in the build-up to the Test, which shows a frailty about the middle-order. Apart from Azhar and Asad Shafiq, the top order is dominated by young players, placing a burden on the experienced pair. This has seen the selectors recall veteran opener Mohammad Hafeez, who is likely to be used in the middle-order, if at all. Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman will duel for an opening berth alongside Azhar.

Pakistan's strength in Test cricket this year has been the performance of all-rounders Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan, who have taken crucial wickets and contributed valuable runs to the cause.

The 33-year-old off-spinner, Bilal Asif, could be in line to make his Test debut, with the only two other spinners in the squad both offering leg-spin.

Mohammad Abbas is the quick bowler most likely to trouble Australia. He has been in sublime form this year, for Pakistan and Leicestershire, and has drawn comparisons with Vernon Philander and legendary Aussie Glenn McGrath for his unerring accuracy in line and length.

Justin Langer confirmed at least two debutants this week, when he declared that white-ball players Travis Head and Aaron Finch would be handed baggy green Test caps. Solid form in ODI cricket from the pair has led Langer to believe they are better suited to the job than the likes of Jake Weatherald and Callum Ferguson

Matt Renshaw has struggled with injury since an electric spell in the English county game was cut short - and Langer may be reluctant to toss him in against Pakistan's lethal quicks. That could open the door for the South African-born Marnus Labuschagne to step up to Test level. Labuschagne finished second on the 2017-18 Sheffield Shield run-scorers', list behind Renshaw, as the pair helped power Queensland to the title. Another man who featured heavily in that campaign, Joe Burns, did not make the cut for this tour.

The source of a fourth possible debutant is among the quicks, where Michael Neser's warm-up form appears to place him ahead of 62-Test veteran Peter Siddle. Siddle might be seen as the safe choice, but on form, Neser is likely to be the right choice.

Barring a late injury, Mitchell Starc will lead a skeleton crew of quicks backed up by at least two spinners. Pre-tour, the odds would have been on Nathan Lyon and Ashton Agar to occupy those slots, but excellent displays from Jon Holland could see the left-arm spinner earn a third cap.

The Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell, have gone from being the running joke of Aussie cricket to integral members of the Test team in less than a year - and not just because of the triple suspensions handed to those involved in the ball-tampering scandal. Shaun is the most reliable generator of runs in the middle-order and Mitchell's all-round ability helps maintain a good team balance, affording them an extra seamer who also contributes middle-order runs.

The awareness that most of the top five will not be in next year's Ashes XI will be a driving force for Australia's batsmen in this series - and with Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood sidelined the same could be said for the pacemen. Neser, Siddle and Brendan Doggett have the opportunity to press for a place as the reserve seamer on the tour of England that follows the 2019 World Cup.

Verdict: Pakistan 1/1
Australia's frailty against spin will be the deciding factor in this series. While Australia have excellent slow-bowling options themselves, Pakistan's batsmen are more adept against the turning ball and should outdo their opponents.

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Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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