1st Test – Pakistan V Australia – FCN Preview

A much-anticipated test series for a variety of reasons, some more than others for the Australian cricket team who get set to put back on the baggy green after that controversial tour of South Africa. Australia’s overseas record isn’t great when you look back on their past four test series results away from home, their best result was a drawn series against Bangladesh (1-1) last year.

Pakistan won’t get a much better opportunity to bring down a powerhouse nation like Australia, they’ve lost arguably two of their best batsmen in this format along with star quick Josh Hazlewood who’s set to make his return in the JLT One-Day Cup after he sustained a stress fracture in his back. Pakistan are in a much better position in terms of selection options coming into this series, so much so that they’ve decided to drop strike bowler Mohammad Amir who had a disappointing Asia Cup campaign with the ball. It comes as quite a shock axing really, Amir picked up 4/36 in the first test at Lord’s during Pakistan’s tour of England which saw him play a significant part in their victory over the home side. One Pakistani quick who is in form is 28-year-old Mohammad Abbas, his back-to-back four-wicket hauls in the first test against England really did boost the morale of his teammates in what was expected to be a one-sided contest favoring England. Alongside threatening right-armer Hasan Ali who’s really coming of age as a benchmark seam bowler, the men in green are well-stocked in the fast bowling department. The area that Pakistan will look to countlessly target Australia in has to be their batting woes against spin bowling. Pakistan didn’t play two spinners against England, and just when it seemed like that plan was on track against Australia, Shadab Khan was ruled out due to injury. As a result of that, 33-year-old spinning all-rounder Bilal Asif and veteran leggy Yasir Shah should form Pakistan’s spin combination. England was able to expose Pakistan’s batting depth in the second test at Leeds, but it’s going to be difficult to achieve that in Dubai where ball movement is minimal. It’s going to be extremely difficult to limit the output of both Azhar Ali and Babar Azam on this sort of surface; Azhar has a high score of 302 not out recorded back in 2016 at this venue. Middle order batsman Asad Shafiq is another who enjoys batting at this stadium, averaging 51.62 from 10 tests at Dubai.

A new-look Australian side will look to reclaim their dominance on the International stage once again after a shambolic couple of years touring the globe. Not only that, ‘sandpaper gate’ has shoved the Aussies back more than a few steps after the ball-tampering incident just about tarnished their reputation as a cricketing nation. This tour of the U.A.E. might be just what Australia needed, a fresh start. They head into this two-match test series led by wicketkeeper Tim Paine who’s already voiced his opinion on what this team aspires to be over the next 12 months or so, now it’s time to back it up out on the cricket field. The visitors are expected to hand a host of players a test debut including 31-year-old Aaron Finch and South Australian captain Travis Head, both who’ve been regulars in the ODI squad. Expected to be added to Australia’s growing list of debutantes for this match are Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser who’ve both been rewarded for their form in Australia’s domestic first-class competition the Sheffield Shield. The Marsh brothers were brilliant in the tour match against Pakistan A, particularly younger brother Mitchell who delivered a promising 162 off 298 deliveries. Travis Head’s unbeaten 90 certainly indicated that Australia’s top-middle order isn’t going to fluctuate easily, but the tourist’s biggest weapon ahead of this series has to be Usman Khawaja. He’s been in and out of this test side more times than Ricky Ponting scored centuries, it’s bewildering really. With a test average of 42 and six hundreds to his name, this could be the series that cements Usman Khawaja in the team for the rest of the summer. It’s also worth mentioning that fan-favourite Nathan Lyon picked up incredible figures of 8/103 in Pakistan A’s first innings, he looms as a potential threat to unsettle Pakistan’s line-up when the match is on their terms. Speedster Mitchell Starc will be one to keep an eye on as well, he already has a phenomenal test record but will be tested in conditions that should best suit the batsmen and spin bowlers.

Fantasy Breakdown

Top 5 fantasy picks | Pakistan | 1st test | Dubai

  • Babar Azam
  • Yasir Shah
  • Azhar Ali
  • Mohammad Abbas
  • Asad Shafiq

Wildcard pick – Mohammad Hafeez

Top 5 fantasy picks | Australia | 1st test | Dubai

  • Nathan Lyon
  • Shaun Marsh
  • Usman Khawaja
  • Mitchell Starc
  • Mitchell Marsh

Wildcard pick – Travis Head

Team XI’s

Pakistan (possible) – 1. Mohammad Hafeez 2. Azhar Ali 3. Imam-ul-Haq 4. Babar Azam 5. Fakhar Zaman/Haris Sohail 6. Asad Shafiq 7. Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk) 8. Bilal Asif 9. Yasir Shah 10. Mir Hamza/Wahab Riaz 11. Mohammad Abbas.

Australia (possible) – 1. Usman Khawaja 2. Aaron Finch 3. Shaun Marsh 4. Mitchell Marsh 5. Travis Head 6. Marnus Labuschagne 7. Tim Paine (c & wk) 8. Mitchell Starc 9. Michael Neser/Peter Siddle 10. Nathan Lyon 11. Jon Holland.

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