Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Keys for the Pakistan versus Australia test series

After so many dross T20 and ODI matches we get to savour a test series, and a potential humdinger too. Pitting the nominal number 1 test team Australia, in unfamiliar Asian conditions against a typically unpredictable Pakistan outfit.

Here are a few keys for the series;

1, Reverse swing and spin

Two factors that are always the key plot lines in Asian cricket

The intrigue here is the doubt attached to Australia's ability to bat against these bowling skills with them struggling mightily in the past. Couple this with the three best bowlers in Pakistan's attack being absent, robbing the team of the chance to prey on a noted weakness of the Aussies.

Whether Australia can find a new found dexterity or Pakistan can unveil a few bowling heroes will be decisive

The other side of this is Australia's ability to bowl reverse swing, a skill that they have been clueless in. This has not been helped by Ryan Harris and Shane Watson, both who are skilled in reverse swing being absent from the tour. If this inability continues, it will neutralise their fast bowling attacks threat, and put an unhealthy reliance on their spin corps

2, Which team will cover their key absences the best

Both teams have been hit hard by the absence of pivotal players to their line ups. In Pakistan's case, they are missing the king pins of their bowling line up in strike paceman Junaid Khan as well as their lethal spin twins of Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rehman. Australia have been hit hard too, missing Ryan Harris and Shane Watson. Bowlers that give the teams attack balance, with Harris the highly skilled strike bowler, able to get wickets with the new ball through attacking assaults, or, be just as effective with the old ball, with his sublime skill. Watson, as well as being a dangerous batsman is the nigh on perfect defensive bowler, who dries up all the runs while still remaining a wicket taking threat allowing others to attack at the other end.

Crucially, with reverse swing to be a key in this series, these two are the only Aussies who are proficient in it.

3 The runs from the tail

If one was to ask which batsmen from either team would you have trust in before this series started who would you name?

I would suggest Australia's Michael Clarke and Pakistan's Younis Khan, then you would pause, and say tepidly the likes of Steven Smith, Dave Warner and Misbah ul Haq. After that, every name you might raise would have a huge question mark against it.

The reality in this is it is likely to be a series where both of the teams batting top 6 struggle which will make any runs that are scored by the respective tails in support, crucial

4, Can Australia deal with the demands of the conditions?

One has to dip your hat to Australia's brilliant ascent to the summit of test cricket on the back of whitewashing England at home, and stunning South Africa a way.

The other side to this is it was achieved in conditions tailor made for them due to their familiarity, allowing them to revel. Conversely, a series on dry slow decks, dictating skills they have traditionally struggled compounded by stifling heat is the direct opposite.

The extent they are able to adjust will decide the series.

5, The crucial nature of new ball wickets

The focus largely will be on the spinners in this series, but, it pays scant respect to how the new ball bowlers impact on their prospects. The crux of this is the situation they set up with the success they have with the new ball. If they get early wickets it exposes batsmen that are not set against spinners with close in batsmen around the bat. Conversely, if the batsmen are on top, the spinners come on with Captains reluctant to have fields in because of the runs that might leak, neutralising much of the spinners threat.

6, 'Fate', and how teams make use of it

More than any where in the World, the toss is crucial in Asian conditions.

With pitches batting paradises for most of the first three days, then intemperate after with variable bounce, and supporting unpredictable spin.

There is two sides to this, with the first being the team that wins it, and how they use it after the invariably bat first as opposed to the team that has to counter this. As well as their ability to bat on the 4th and 5th day when the ball will really start to misbehave.

Prediction

It is hard to invest faith in Pakistan with so many key bowlers out, but, it is equally hard to envision Australia being able to perform in condition that always expose them

Pakistan 1 nil

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