Sunday, December 25, 2016

Preview, Boxing Day Test, Australia versus Pakistan

One word sticks in the mind while previewing this match-trust.

With it pointing to both teams having question marks against them and who you trust in more.

A new look Australian team enjoying a honeymoon period after being made to look very average for most of 2016 or a Pakistan unit that most view as having the momentum after nearly pulling off a miraculous victory in Brisbane. Underpinning this is history, with most viewing Pakistan as crickets ultimate tease, often tantalising with its promise, only to disappoint on too many occasions with its reality.

Under Misbah's leadership there is a more 'known' about them but maybe not nearly enough to compel faith.

Ghosts from the GABBA

The epic first Test left an indelible legacy for both.

Key in this was the makeup of both teams 11 and the imbalance within them.

In the case of the Aussies, the stand out is the issues still remaining at 6 and 7's in their new look lineup. In a surreal sense, the changes have weakened them with them losing the bowling contribution that they had by having an all rounder at 6 as well as forsaking surety behind the stumps at 7. It becomes all the more absurd when Nic Maddinson's batting is a shadow of Mitch Marsh's average efforts combined with Matthew Wade being a poor batting option to Peter Nevill as well as still having a keeping howler in his kit bag.

The domino chain collapses on the bowling with the workload it imposes. A factor that loomed large in the 2nd innings where spearheads Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood were driven into the turf by having to bowl a combined 80 overs.

A lack of a 5th bowling option compelled this as well as it being obvious that Steven Smith has next to no faith in incumbent spinner Nathan Lyon. The fact he only bowled 29 out of 145 overs on a pitch supporting spin and bounce highlighted this. The selection of Hilton Cartwright brought the concern into focus with the desire for an all rounder to share in the bowling workload while also highlighting that none are at present up to demands of Test Cricket

This situation becomes very exploitable to the point of becoming defining if Pakistan can bat with the same assured relience they displayed in the 4th inning in Brisbane.. Particularly with the Test scheduled during a Melbourne heat wave.

The toss looms large with it offering a huge benefit if Pakistan wins it, chooses to bat and bats long bringing a focus to any lingering aches/pains that Mssrs Starc & Hazelwood might be feeling.

As for the tourists the composition of their team was self defeating.

Their batting composition was eschewed with them entrusting a virtual babe in Babar Azam in the crucial 3 position in very unfamiliar conditions. Greater sense would have seen either Younus Khan bat at three or Asad Shafiq with the youngster inserted at number 5/6. Similarly, their bowling was lacking balance with it spearheaded by three left arm quicks rather than having a right arm option to add variety. They justified this on which bowlers were in form, but the omitted righties in Sohail Khan and Imran Khan have shown they are very able in the test arena in the past meaning a show of faith im either would have been a better ploy.

The postscript to the look above at both teams is only Pakistan can address their needs through personnel changes with Australia left to grasp to hope.

The Elephant in the Room.

' Catches win matches'......

One of those cricketing cliches that underpins success in the game and always takes centre stage with Pakistan. After how Brisbane finished in a cliffhanger it might be the difference between Pakistan coming back in the series or left to bemoan 'what if'


I really think this game could be decided by the toss.

With it offering the winner the chance to bat on what is likely to be a very true pitch with little of the bounce that the GABBA had.

The aside is the effect on Australia's key bowling spearheads, with it offering much-needed rest if Australia bats first as compared to more workload if Pakistan does.

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