Does team green have a chance against Australia? Nope
After having been dethroned from the number one spot in the Test ranking by India, Pakistan would be itching to retain what they feel is rightfully theirs. The jubilant Test side, headed by the iconic Misbahul Haq, has thus far proven what it is capable of as one unit; all of which is due to their coaching staff, fantastic captain and the players themselves.
Everyone back home expects an easy 3-0 series win in the on-going Test series against the West Indies in the UAE, although the nail biting end to the first Test suggested otherwise. Even after Azhar Ali’s impeccable innings along with Yasir Shah’s standout performance with the ball, Misbah’s team still has a long way to go in the Test series. But what awaits the team after the UAE is a challenge tougher than any other; the tour down under.
However, for that to happen, Misbah needs to bring his ‘A’ game to the field – only Misbah knows how to carve out victories in situations where a draw seems inevitable. In situations where Pakistan is down, Misbah intentionally slows down the pace of the game as he instructs his attack bowlers to switch to a more defensive mode and bowl wicket to wicket. As a result, runs dry out, pressure rises and inevitably, Pakistan gets the much needed breakthrough. This is the exact strategy that he applied in England and it worked wonders. The same strategy was also used against South Africa and it is only a matter of time before he adopts such a strategy against the likes of New Zealand and Australia.
Secondly, it is necessary for the success of Pakistan to field the right XI according to the pitch and weather – also keeping in mind the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.
Regarding the Pakistani openers, Sami Aslam, the relatively newer addition to the team, needs to adjust his technique urgently. A few of his technical errors can cause him tons of trouble on generally faster and bouncier pitches. In conditions like Australia’s, one needs to be good against the shorter deliveries, but Sami’s ability to play the short ball is very limited. He prefers playing the ball late so naturally his hook or pull is not very effective. A hurried delivery can easily catch him off guard, resulting in his dismissal.
His fellow opener, Azhar Ali, on the other hand, has had quite an extraordinary summer thus far. In the previous six matches, the Pakistani Vice-Captain has bagged 560 runs at an average of almost 93. More of the same is expected of him.
For the first time in many years, Pakistan is spoiled for choices when it comes to the middle order; a position every top team wants to be in. With youngsters like Babar Azam performing phenomenally in both ODIs and Tests, the team management has a lot to think about as to who should sit out and who should stay. But till he is fully fit, it seems as if veteran Younis Khan is most likely to retain his number four position with Asad Shafiq being promoted up the order to three.
Captain Misbah will provide stability down the order at five, followed by the flamboyant wicket-keeper batsman, Sarfraz Ahmed at six. Pakistan’s latest pick, Mohammad Nawaz, is likely to be preferred over Imad Wasim as the only genuine all-rounder owing to the 22-year-old’s comparatively better batting temperament. Although Imad has made a name for himself as a finisher for Pakistan in the shorter formats, Mohammad looks to be the one who can dig in deep and get settled quickly into the difficult conditions whilst steadily keeping the scoreboard ticking with his ability to rotate the strike at will.
Chief selector, Inzamamul Haq, can also look into the likes of Fahim Ashraf and Shadab Khan as surprise inclusions owing to their solid performances in the domestic circuit. Hailing from the city of Faisalabad, Fahim is an all-rounder who recently scored a match altering knock of 61 for the Pakistan-A team in the four day test against Zimbabwe-A. The 22-year-old averages 35.55 in first-class along with 66 scalps to his name. His ability to bowl quick can also come in handy in conditions that generally suit the pacers.
Shadab Khan, similarly, is another more than handy all-rounder who has the ability to score big and confuse the opposing batsmen with his leg spin. He, most recently, scored a match winning innings of 132 against Zimbabwe-A for Pakistan-A also claiming nine victims in the same match.
Mohammad Amir will finally be returning to the place where he came into the limelight as a teenage sensation for the very first time. Seemingly, the Amir of today lacks intent compared to the one that literally breathed fire six years ago. Amir would be looking to swing the cherry both ways as well as extract bounce in the hope of repeating his performance of 2010; a combined series where he picked up 27 wickets in six matches. His partner, Wahab Riaz, who is still remembered for “that spell” against Shane Watson, along with the fastest Asian to a 100 wickets, Yasir Shah, will look to produce more of the same.
While Wahab, Amir and Yasir Shah are most likely to be the first names on the sheet, Sohail Khan might be worried about his spot owing to his recent below par performances. An experienced bowler when it comes to such conditions, Rahat Ali, is most likely to be preferred over him.
The Pakistani teams of the past have generally played well against New Zealand in New Zealand, but it is in Australia where the players take time adjusting and that seems to be the case even today.
All in all, an interesting chain of events await both the cricket teams traveling south, and the cricket-crazy fans back home. Realistically speaking, the team with the better balance is likely to turn out victorious. Personally, I feel that Pakistan has what it takes to give the relatively young New Zealand side a run for their money. Against Australia, however, chances of survival seem slim.
Against New Zealand: 1-0 to Pakistan
Against Australia: 0-2 to Australia
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