After a historic occasion gave way to a rather dispiriting match in Rawalpindi, Pakistan and Australia will renew hostilities in Karachi in this second Test of the series. Pakistan had the better of the first match, and will feel confident of their chances of knocking Australia over here. But Pat Cummins’ side are a force to be reckoned with. Who will come out on top? Read on for our full Pakistan vs Australia 2nd Test preview and prediction:
Pakistan vs Australia 2nd Test Preview and Prediction
Series So Far
To describe the pitch in Rawalpindi as a road would be something of an understatement. There was almost nothing on offer for either the seamers or the spinners. Pakistan’s Nauman Ali did take a six-fer to return career-best figures of 6-107. But more than one of those dismissals came as a result of Australian batters growing frustrated with the slow nature of the pitch and making mistakes. The Australian attack, meanwhile, could do almost nothing.
They took just three wickets across the match, with the only other Pakistan wicket to fall a run out effected by Marnus Labuschagne. Watchful, and comparatively composed, the Pakistan batters dined out. Imam-ul-Haq scored a century in both innings, with Abdullah Shafique and Azhar Ali also scoring tonnes. Babar Azam, out for 36, was the only batter to miss out. The lack of time in the middle for the likes of Mohammad Rizwan and Fawad Alam might be an issue, however.
Pakistan will almost certainly continue with the top-order pairing of Imam-ul-Haq and Shafique after their excellent showing in the first match. Imam-ul-Haq, in particular, will surely be full of confidence having scored 268 runs in Rawalpindi. Azhar Ali will be the next man in. If his powers are beginning to wane, there was little sign of it last-time out with his 185 a superb effort even on a flat deck. Captain and star man Babar Azam will bat at four.
Alam did not get the chance to bat in the first match. But he may prove crucial at five if the surface is more testing in Karachi. Mohammad will bat at six, with Iftikhar Ahmed dropping out of the squad to accommodate Faheem Ashraf’s return. Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan got about as much out of the pitch in Rawalpindi as anyone could. Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled a fiery opening spell to the Australians, albeit for little reward. Hasan Ali will likely replace Naseem Shah.
The Australian top order were all unable to convert their strong starts into big scores which will be a frustration. David Warner and Usman Khawaja will hope to put that right this time around after Warner fell for 68 and Khawaja 97. Labuschagne, who made 90 in Rawalpindi, remains the key wicket for Australia, with he and Steve Smith the engine room of the Australian batting order. Travis Head, meanwhile, made just eight in Rawalpindi, but had a superb Ashes.
Cameron Green did not look entirely comfortable against the spinners in Rawalpindi and may well be challenged here with the surface in Karachi expected to offer more. But he remains a vital cog in the Australian side and will play as the third seamer. Alex Carey will bat at seven. He could use a score. Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will be next in. They toiled for no reward in the first Test. The big news will be the debut of leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson. His partnership with Nathan Lyon will be vital.
The Pakistan batting unit were so untroubled in Rawalpindi that it is slightly difficult to assess exactly where their games are at. But if the top order do not find things quite so straightforward in Karachi, one suspects they will be glad to have Alam to call upon in the middle order. He has proven himself a superb Test match batsman, with five centuries to his name already. He also usually converts his starts, having fallen between 50 and 100 runs only twice so far in his career.
There will be a lot of pressure on Swepson to perform on debut. The Queenslander has been excellent in the Sheffield Shield, with 154 wickets including a hat-trick, and Australia will need his more attacking leg-spin to serve as a foil to Lyon’s consistent, but at times slightly predictable, off-spin. If Swepson can really get the ball turning, as confident as the Pakistan batters may be against spin, he could cause real damage. That would stand Australia in good stead with tours in Sri Lanka and India on the horizon.
There is no disguising the reality that Pakistan had the better of the first Test. That was partly due to Australia playing one more seamer than they needed, a mistake they have not made this time around, but also because the conditions were more familiar to the Pakistan batters than their counterparts. With the pitch in Karachi likely to be rather more testing, that familiarity with the conditions should be an even greater advantage this time around. Expect it to be decisive.
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