Australia have, for the most part, been making impressive strides as a Test side in recent years under the captaincy of first Tim Paine and now Pat Cummins. But Pakistan too are a far more formidable side than they were when these teams last met, on Australian soil in 2019. Will Australia be able to build on their Ashes success or will Pakistan claim a big scalp? Read on for our full Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test preview and prediction:
Pakistan vs Australia 1st Test Preview and Prediction
Australia enjoyed almost the perfect red-ball summer at home. They were rocked by the resignation of Paine just before the Ashes started, but their old enemies England were swept aside to and Paine’s absence was swiftly forgotten. It must be admitted that England were fairly feeble opposition, with their batters entirely unable to cope with the pace, seam and bounce the Australian bowlers extracted from the pitches. But it was nonetheless a series that left Australian Test cricket in rude health.
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Pakistan come into this series in fine fettle themselves. There were last in action away to Bangladesh, who they dismissed in imperious fashion. They won the first Test by eight wickets and the second by an innings despite rain washing out roughly a day and a half of the match. That 2-0 series win followed a draw with the West Indies away from home and a win South Africa 2-0 at home at the start of 2021. They did, however, suffer a fairly one-sided defeat away to New Zealand at the end of 2020.
Pakistan have not had a great deal of stability at the top of the order of late. Abdullah Shafique excelled against Bangladesh and will surely be given at least this series to establish himself decisively as a result. In Abid Ali’s absence, Shan Masood – fresh from an excellent PSL seems his most likely partner. Azhar Ali’s powers are on the wane, but he remains a solid enough number three. Babar Azam remains underrated in some quarters, but he is an excellent Test batter and the best that Pakistan have to offer.
Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan probably run him a close second and third, however, with Rizwan also almost certainly the best wicket-keeper in the men’s game. Faheem Ashraf will be a big miss at number seven. Pakistan may look to Iftikhar Ahmed’s ability with the bat to plug that gap. That will leave a fairly heavy responsibility on the four-pronged attack of Nauman Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Sajid Khan to make in-roads against the Australian batting unit.
It would be a surprise to see Australia change much after their Ashes win. David Warner will open the batting with the restored Usman Khawaja, though he did score just 17 runs from the top of the order in Hobart after centuries in both innings from number five in Sydney. Marnus Labuschagne, surely now the prized wicket in the Australian line-up, will bat at three with Steve Smith, the man replaced by Labuschagne in that regard, at four. Travis Head, superb in the Ashes, will bat at five.
Cameron Green’s ability to contribute with bat and ball are pivotal. He will bat at number six. Alex Carey will take the gloves and bat at seven. Ashton Agar may have a role to play in this series, but the pitches in Pakistan usually have enough in them for the seamers for Australia to trust in the big three of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood. Still, Nathan Lyon may well prove the key man for Australia with the ball as the frontline spinner.
For Pakistan, Shaheen will be carrying a heavy responsibility as the leader of the attack. He will share the new ball with Naseem and will need to make early breakthroughs against an Australian batting line-up that hammered him and his fellow seamers into submission the last time these sides met. He has improved since and Australia are facing a different challenge up against Pakistan away from home. But if Shaheen’s threat can somehow be blunted by Australia, it is hard to see Pakistan winning this series.
Key to Australia’s hopes of blunting Shaheen is Labuschagne. He has still played relatively little Test cricket, especially away from home, but he is now the leading light in the Australian batting unit and, with Smith and Warner not the players they once were, very much the future of this side. But he has never played a match in the subcontinent and struggled against Pakistan on debut in the UAE. If he can assert himself in this match, and series, it will go a long way to boosting Australia’s hopes of victory.
Australia will doubtless be confident after crushing England on home turf, but this a very different test. They will need to be at their very best to get something out of this series. But in the first match, it is hard to escape the feeling that Pakistan’s greater familiarity with the conditions will prove decisive, particularly as the majority of the side have recently been playing in the PSL. In truth, there does not look to be a great deal between two very fine sides otherwise.
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