Pakistan ponder playing combination for historic Australia Test

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Pakistan ponder playing combination for historic Australia Test.Pic/ICC
Pakistan ponder playing combination for historic Australia Test.Pic/ICC

Rawalpindi, March 3: Valuable points in the race for the ICC World Test Championship will be up for grabs when Pakistan hosts Australia in the first of three Tests starting in Rawalpindi on Friday.

It is the first time in 24 years that Australia have toured the south Asian nation and it also features the battle between the teams currently second and third on the ICC World Test Championship points table.

Australia are second with 52 points and a percentage of 86.66, while Pakistan are one rung below with 36 points and a percentage of 75.

Australia have taken a full-strength squad to Pakistan, but the make-up of their final XI is likely to depend majorly on how they expect each pitch will play.

Quicks Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc appear likely to partner skipper Pat Cummins, while Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson are in the touring party should the Aussies choose to provide veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon with some support.

They also have all-rounders Cameron Green and Mitchell Marsh at their disposal, so there is a lot to ponder for Cummins and interim coach Andrew McDonald ahead of the coin toss on Friday.

Mystery also surrounds the likely Pakistan XI, with injuries to Hasan Ali and Faheem Ashraf compounded by a positive Covid-19 test by uncapped quick Haris Rauf earlier this week.

Star paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi is certain to ask a lot of questions of Australia’s top-order, while youngsters Mohammad Wasim Jr and Naseem Shah may be given the chance to impress by skipper Babar Azam.

Azam will again be the key wicket that Australia will be chasing, but Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam and vice-captain Mohammad Rizwan have plenty of experience and are more than capable of scoring plenty of runs.

Pakistan v Australia schedule
First Test: 4-8 March in Rawalpindi
Second Test: 12-16 March in Karachi
Third Test: 21-25 March in Lahore
First ODI: 29 March in Rawalpindi
Second ODI: 31 March in Rawalpindi
Third ODI: 2 April in Rawalpindi
First T20I: 5 April in Rawalpindi

Remember the last time

You have to go back more than two years ago to find the last time Pakistan played a Test match against Australia and it was a day-night contest in Adelaide that was dominated by David Warner and the home side.

Warner hit a career-best and unbeaten 335 as Australia amassed a whopping 589/3 declared, before Pakistan were bowled out for 302 and 239 in reply as the Aussies clinched an easy triumph by an innings and 48 runs.

Top-ranked Test batter Marnus Labuschagne was also among the runs with 163, while veteran spinner Yasir Shah scored a brilliant 113 during Pakistan’s first innings.

What they said

Muhammad Wasim (Pakistan chief selector): “These are the best available, most talented and in-form players in the domestic circuit. I am confident they will put up an impressive performance against a formidable Australia side.”

Pat Cummins (Australia captain): “We feel lucky to get to come back here after a whole generation didn’t get the chance to play any cricket over here. I think it [Pakistan] has slowly had more cricket here. George Bailey, our selector, came and played a couple of games a few years ago. The Pakistan Super League has also been hugely successful. We’re fortunate that they have come to play us in Australia and it’s great we can return the favour.”

Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Zahid Mahmood.

Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. On standby: Sean Abbott, Brendan Doggett, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Renshaw

Courtesy ICC

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