Pakistan, October 21, 2014 (PPI-OT): Pakistan regrouped to launch a spin attack on Australia in the first of the two Tests, which starts here in Dubai on Wednesday (October 22), with both captains Misbah-ul-Haq and Michael Clarke agreeing it will be a tough series. Though Pakistan will be hard-pressed to fill the huge void left by the absence of suspended Saeed Ajmal, Misbah put up a brave face, hoping the replacements will perform.
Ajmal, who has been suspended due to an illegal bowling action, has single-handedly ruled the dry and slow tracks of Pakistan’s neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates. He has taken 37 wickets in six Tests (three of which Pakistan won) in Dubai, which includes 24 wickets in a 3-0 rout of England in 2012.
Pakistan have also lost frontline seamers Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz – both through knee injuries – and have to rely on uncapped leg-spinner Yasir Shah and two-Test left-armer Zulfiqar Babar, both of whom are likely to play.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, under pressure to score runs after managing nought and 15 in the preceding 3-0 One-Day series defeat, admitted Ajmal’s absence is significant.”Ajmal has left a big hole,” said Misbah, who leads a team whose last Test series win over Australia was back in 1994.
“Everybody knows that Australia is a top and tough side, so we need to play our best players. I think we have experienced and talented players who can fill in,” said Misbah. The return of veteran batsman Younis Khan and Azhar Ali will boost Pakistan’s fragile batting as they seek to remain unbeaten in a Test series in the UAE since they were forced to decamp in 2009 due to security fears in their country.
Australia will also look to include two spinners in Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe despite their unimpressive record of losing five of the last six Tests (one draw) in which they played with two spinners. The Australians have dominated Pakistan of late, winning 13 out of the last 14 Tests against them.
Australia will hope skipper Michael Clarke – their top Test scorer in 2013 with 1,093 – anchors the batting after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained two months ago. Clarke failed to get much-needed practice in the 153-run defeat in the four-day tour game against Pakistan ‘A’ on Sunday, managing just ten and five.
Clarke admitted Ajmal will be missed by Pakistan.”I think there is no doubt that Ajmal is an amazing bowler. Obviously Pakistan would wish they had him available for selection,” said Clarke, who admitted he was lacking match practice.
“I wouldn’t call it lack of form. The last time I played, I made 68 not out, which was in a One-Day series against Zimbabwe,” said Clarke of the match in August.”The time before that I got a golden duck and before that I got 161 not out. So in my last three bats I think I am doing okay in regards to form. I think there’s certainly a lack of game practice under my belt.”
Australia will hope all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, will be able to fill in for the more experienced Shane Watson who is out of the tour due to a calf injury.Australia’s pace attack will be led by Mitchell Johnson who bowled remarkably well in the two One-Days he played – taking six wickets – and supported by the hard-working Peter Siddle.Clarke said he always rates Pakistan as a tough opposition.
“Pakistan has a very good team; they’ve got a lot of talent in this team and a lot of experience as well. The Australian team knows we have to be at our best to beat the Pakistani side in our conditions.
“We have the utmost respect for them. Test cricket is very different from One-Day cricket and T20 cricket as well. Bringing some experience back into the Pakistan team will help them. Their senior players know these conditions really well as they’ve played a lot against Australia.”The respect is there and we know we have to be at our best to compete and to beat them.”
A 2-0 clean-sweep would return Australia to the top of the Test rankings but Clarke feels playing better and a win away from home is more important than the top slot.
“I don’t think that’s our focus. Our focus is playing really good consistent cricket. We certainly know we have to continue to perform away from home. The great teams that I’ve seen and been lucky enough to play with seem to have consistency at home and away. That’s probably our greatest challenge as a Test team.”The second Test will be played in Abu Dhabi from October 30.Teams (from):
Pakistan:Misbah-ul Haq (Capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sarfraz Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah.
Australia: Michael Clarke (Capt), David Warner, Chris Rogers, Alex Doolan, Steven Smith, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Brad Haddin, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Mitchell Johnson, Steve O’Keefe, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner, Nathan Lyon.
For more information, contact:
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore 54600, Pakistan
Tel: +9242 571 7231 -4
Fax: +9242 571 1860