The series-decider heads to Abu Dhabi after Australia were able to hold off Pakistan late on day five in Dubai resulting in a drawn test. Pakistan was in control of just about the entirety of the test, so it came as quite a surprise when Australia fought valiantly late on day four and continued the trend the next day to save the test thanks to some Usman Khawaja and Tim Paine brilliance & resilience. Pakistan had the opposition right where they wanted them, but failed to execute which gave the Aussies a glimmer of hope.
Walking off the ground in Dubai, it would have hit Pakistan straight away that this match had their name written all over it heading into the final days play. They had just about dominated all four days of the test and looked in a commanding position heading into day five needing seven wickets to seal the win. Given Australia’s batting collapse in the first innings, Pakistan looked set to rattle them again. Credit to Australia, they knew exactly what they had to do and executed it just about perfectly to deny Pakistan victory in the first test. Veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah did his best to drag his team over the line as the shadows of the stands began to lengthen in Dubai, claiming four wickets on the final day before Tim Paine defended his side to victory in the final over with just two wickets in hand. After a highly-dominant first innings with the ball, debutante Bilal Asif was held wicketless (0/87) in the second innings which fell in favour of the Australians. Fast bowler Wahab Riaz also featured in the wicketless category for Pakistan, but he failed to make a breakthrough in both innings finishing the test with figures of 0/81. Fellow-seamer Mohammad Abbas continued his good form bagging 7 wickets against the Aussies who struggled to get on top of the Pakistani quick.
Dubai was perceived as a very flat batting track which probably assisted Pakistan in the first innings as Australia’s pace attack struggled to make an impact, even the spinners found it tough to extract anything out of the ordinary. Promising signs from Haris Sohail who scored his maiden test century and Imam-ul-Haq who looks to be Pakistan’s next long term opener in this format were both brilliant in Dubai, not to mention Mohammad Hafeez who scored a brilliant 126 in his return to the test side. Asad Shafiq also looked in excellent touch in the middle order with scores of 80 & 41, the only two batsmen who didn’t fire with the willow happened to be two of their renowned stars in Azhar Ali and Babar Azam. Azam was unluckily run out in the first innings for 4 batting at No. 7, very low for a player of his calibre to be coming in. Moving down to No. 3 for this test series, Azhar Ali’s performance mirrored the test in Leeds against England four months ago where he also failed to contribute. Maybe a change in fortunes might be on the cards in Abu Dhabi?
Stunning revelations ahead of this second test at Abu Dhabi could make this test even more interesting with the pitch revealing itself as a relatively green one after photos were leaked on social media. This could potentially prompt some changes for both sides if the wicket appears as green as it is, although looks can be deceiving as many teams have learned over the years. Australia’s miraculous fight back in Dubai saw the likes of cricketing great Steve Waugh applaud the performance of Tim Paine and his Aussie side who clearly came into the final day with a ‘never say die’ attitude. You could say that Usman Khawaja was the unsung hero, he wasn’t there at the end but was still a major influence in both their innings. Australia’s first innings looked set to surpass Pakistan’s before a downpour of wickets left them in a spot of bother. Khawaja proved to the selectors that he’s a must-have in this test side as he accumulated 85 off 175 alongside debutante Aaron Finch who also showed plenty of fight. If that wasn’t enough to tickle their fancy, Khawaja cemented his spot in the side ahead of Australia’s upcoming summer of cricket with a match-saving 141 off a whopping 302 deliveries which went along way to helping the Aussies keep the series alive.
South Australian skipper Travis Head delivered on debut with a gritty 175-ball 72 which more than made up for his first innings blunder. There are plenty of positives, but the Marsh brothers are once again proving to be a talking point, particularly Mitchell who hasn’t justified his spot in the baggy green as of yet according to a vast majority of the Australian public. Along with Khawaja, skipper Tim Paine turned out to be one of the hero’s in Dubai as he kept out everything Pakistan had to throw at him and was rightfully rewarded for his efforts. While all the focus seems to be on the batsmen, the return of fast bowler Peter Siddle was a much-welcomed one as the 33-year-old was Australia’s most impressive bowler claiming 3/58 in the first innings. Superstar-quick Mitchell Starc managed just one wicket for the test despite his best efforts, while spinners Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland picked up four wickets apiece, not overly impressive but acceptable. If this second wicket is as green as we all think it is, Australia might think about playing one of Michael Neser or Brendan Doggett as an extra seamer which is a rarity on these subcontinent venues.
Late News – Imam-ul-Haq will miss the Abu Dhabi test due to a finger injury, Fakhar Zaman will be his likely replacement at the top of the order.
Western Australian all-rounder Ashton Agar could potentially replace Jon Holland who leaked plenty of runs in Dubai, the green tinge on the pitch prior to the game however continues to play on everyone’s mind.
Top 5 fantasy picks | Pakistan | 2nd test | Abu Dhabi
- Mohammad Abbas
- Mohammad Hafeez
- Haris Sohail
- Yasir Shah
- Azhar Ali
Wildcard pick – Babar Azam
Top 5 fantasy picks | Australia | 2nd test | Abu Dhabi
- Usman Khawaja
- Mitchell Starc
- Shaun Marsh
- Nathan Lyon
- Aaron Finch
Wildcard pick – Peter Siddle
Pakistan (possible) – 1. Fakhar Zaman 2. Mohammad Hafeez 3. Azhar Ali 4. Haris Sohail 5. Asad Shafiq 6. Babar Azam 7. Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk) 8. Bilal Asif 9. Wahab Riaz/Mir Hamza 10. Yasir Shah 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. Peter Siddle 10. Nathan Lyon 11. Jon Holland/Ashton Agar.
Zak Varik is an Australian columnist/writer who specializes in the sports category cricket. With over four years of experience covering all sorts of cricket tournaments around the world, Zak has gained extensive knowledge in International cricket as well as domestic.
“I’ve loved watching cricket since I was about 7 years old, my childhood hero was none other than Andrew “Roy” Symonds who probably enhanced my love of the game through the years”.
Zak is now an established writer for FCN (Fantasy Cricket News) and has also previously represented other Blogs during his time as a writer.