After Australia grimly held on for a draw in Dubai, it has set up a winner-takes-all battle in Abu Dhabi for the second Test of their series in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan.
This being a two-Test series put extra significance on what Australia’s batsmen were able to do during Day 5 of the first Test. While the pitch didn’t do as much as expected, for the Aussies to only lost five wickets across the course of an entire day was a stunning effort.
SECOND TEST, DAY ONE LIVE SCORES, BLOG
Heading into the final day of the match, Australia looked down and out with little chance of recovery.
Seven wickets across 90 overs, with only a few recognised batsmen left in the shed against bowlers like Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas and rookie revelation Bilal Asif seemed like a challenge which was never going to be overcome.
The Australians were under the hammer coming into the series, and given how most of the first Test was played, they were lucky to come away with a draw.
Although, without their dramatic first innings collapse of 10 for 60 as they finished with just 202 on the board – more than 250 behind Pakistan’s first innings – they would have been in the match come the final day.
Even again, had they not lost three wickets in quick succession during the early going of the second innings, they might have been closer to winning it by the end of Day 5.
That being said, none of that happened and Australia found themselves scratching around for a draw. To avoid it in the second Test, it’ll be all about not collapsing in a heap, because apart from those moments, Australia seemed more or less level with the hosts.
To be fair, it was a pitch which offered little in Dubai. The Pakistan bowlers made it talk for them at different times, with the revelations being the relatively inexperienced quick Mohammad Abbas and rookie spin bowler Bilal Asif.
While Yasir Shah struggled to make anything out of the game, the back-up brigade came to the party in the first innings, taking all ten wickets.
Wahab Riaz didn’t have as much impact as he should have, but the Pakistani batsmen were good and Yasir has never put two bad Tests together in a row, so there are problems for the touring party to overcome.
What we did see in the first Test from the hosts was their inability to work through tough times. When they were confident, things rolled nicely for them, but Sarfraz Ahmed is generally a negative captain. And by that, we aren’t talking tactics, but rather, his attitude on the field and it filtered down to his troops on Day 5.
Nathan Lyon of Australia bowls (Photo by Ryan Pierse – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)
Whether Australia can hold themselves together for five days this time and not let one session ruin them like it did in the first Test is anyone’s guess, but given a bit of luck and no collapses, they have to be a shot at taking away what seemed like an unlikely series victory just days ago.
Pictures of the pitch in the lead-up to the second Test show the deck might be a bit on the green side, but it’d come as a major shock if there was a single blade of grass left anywhere on it.
Overall record: Played 63, Australia 31, Pakistan 14, drawn 18
Overall record in UAE: Played 5, Pakistan 2, Australia 2, drawn 1
Overall series record: Played 22, Australia 12, Pakistan 6, drawn 4
Series in UAE: Played 2, Pakistan 1, Australia 1
Last five matches
October 7-11, 2018: Pakistan drew with Australia at Dubai International Stadium, Dubai
January 3-7, 2017: Australia defeat Pakistan by 220 runs at SCG, Sydney
December 26-30, 2016: Australia defeat Pakistan by an innings and 18 runs at MCG, Melbourne
October 30 – November 3, 2014: Pakistan defeat Australia by 356 runs at Abu Dhabi Stadium
October 22 – 26, 2014: Pakistan defeat Australia by 221 runs at Dubai International Stadium, Dubai
1. Azhar Ali
2. Mohammad Hafeez
3. Fakhar Zaman
4. Haris Sohail
5. Asad Shafiq
6. Babar Azam
7. Sarfraz Ahmed (c), (wk)
8. Yasir Shah
9. Bilal Asif
10. Wahab Riaz
11. Mohammad Abbas
Rest of squad – Hasan Ali, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan
The home team will be without Imam-ul-Haq for the second Test, but it’s likely to be the only change they will make – and why would they make any other changes to a winning side?
A forced change, Imam injured his arm while fielding during the Australian second innings on Day 5. Given Azhar Ali’s struggles at first drop, I expect him to return to the top of the order alongside Mohammad Hafeez.
Pakistan’s players appeal dismissal of Australia’s batsman Nathan Lyon (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Fakhar Zaman is shaping as the most likely replacement, while Wahab Riaz will probably be retained in the 11 over Mir Hamza despite a poor showing.
1. Aaron Finch
2. Usman Khawaja
3. Shaun Marsh
4. Travis Head
5. Marnus Labuschagne
6. Mitch Marsh (vc)
7. Tim Paine (c), (wk)
8. Mitchell Starc
9. Peter Siddle
10. Jon Holland
11. Nathan Lyon
Rest of squad – Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw
Australia aren’t expected to make any changes after hanging on for the draw, but after limited impact with the ball, there is talk Mitchell Starc will be rested.
Given he is coming back from injury and facing a huge summer of cricket ahead, there is a fear playing him under the sweltering sun of the UAE won’t be good for him or the team’s performance.
If he is replaced, expect Michael Neser to come into the attack as the fourth debutant of the series for the tourists. He played in the warm-up match and many were surprised he was left out of the first Test for Peter Siddle.
The other one which may happen is Matt Renshaw coming back into the XI. He missed the first Test through a concussion and lack of match practice, but it wouldn’t surprise to see him bat at first drop in place of Marnus Labuschagne, with Shaun and Mitch Marsh both moving down the batting order.
It’s time for the Marsh brothers to stand up away from home
While we have long complained about Usman Khawaja’s inability to play spin in the sub-continent, it’s time the same questions are asked of Shaun and Mitchell Marsh. While the duo seems wonderful in Aussie conditions, as soon as they are outside of their home country, things go south. A long, long way south.
Given the results they had throughout the summer and a lack of batsmen in the squad, it’s unlikely either will be dropped for the second Test, but they need to stand up and put in a performance.
Neither average well away from home and their efforts in the first Test were abysmal.
Mitchell Marsh and Shaun Marsh of Australia (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Particularly, the second innings. While we saw the debutants, particularly Aaron Finch and Travis Head stand up to be counted as Australia hung on for that grim draw, the two experienced, supposed leaders of the batting line-up, crumbled in spectacular fashion.
Without tooting the Aussie horn anymore than it should be, if the Marsh brothers batted for a prolonged period like the rest of the batting order, the tourists could have been in a position to win the game late on Day 5, instead of relying on Nathan Lyon to save the day.
The pressure is on them to stand up and be counted in Abu Dhabi.
Surely Yasir Shah and Azhar Ali won’t have two bad Tests in a row… right?
If there were two names who would have been striking fear into the hearts of the Aussie team before this series started, it was Yasir Shah and Azhar Ali.
The spinner and top order batsman have all but carried the Pakistan team in recent times.
Starting with Shah, and he has quickly built a reputation as one of the best spin bowlers in the world. Coming off a hip injury and some extremely poor domestic form though, he struggled badly in Dubai despite what the first innings numbers will tell you.
The problem for Pakistan is that for so many years, they have relied on Yasir. When all else failed, their tactic has been to find wickets through the champion leg-spinner.
Without him firing, they found Bilal Asif and Mohammad Abbas during the first innings, but ran out of options during the second. Without having to rely on others for some time, Pakistan seemed at a loss when Yasir couldn’t get things done, and him swapping ends with Bilal despite clearly being the out of form bowler made no sense at all. It almost seemed like Sarfraz Ahmed had no control of his smiling assassin.
Pakistan leg spinner Yasir Shah celebrates after taking a wicket. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
At the other end of the team sheet is Azhar Ali. The top order batsman is world class and has proven so over the last few years.
He had an awful Test, collecting low scores in each innings and looking completely out of sorts at the crease.
Simply put, the duo don’t often play back-to-back Tests, but with an Australian team learning how to play them, they need big performances.
Usman Khawaja has suddenly become Australia’s key man in Asia
Well, there is a sentence I never expected to write.
It’s come out of the blue, but Khawaja was the deserved man of the match during the first Test. It wasn’t just the runs he scored though, but the way he went about getting them.
From reverse sweeping Yasir out of the rough to driving down the ground and defending when he needed to, Khawaja’s pair of innings were just about faultless, with the exception of the two deliveries he got out on.
While he would have been bitterly disappointed not taking the tourists all the way to the finish line, you can hardly blame him after spending four and a half days in the sweltering heat.
One lapse of concentration is all it takes to end the innings of a batsman, but for Khawaja, it’s previously been battling mental demons and physical skill from the first ball of his innings in Asia.
If you cast the mind back to Australia’s tour of Bangladesh, he managed to get himself ran out in almost comical circumstances, and it appears his cards were marked, never to play in Asia again.
With suspensions a plenty though, he got another chance, went to the top of the order and excelled.
While his best position at home may not be opening, in Asia, it is. He is able to get in while the ball is still new, get his eye and then attack the spinners.
It was a stunning performance and the Aussies will need another one from the opener.
Australia’s Usman Khawaja (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft, File)
Pakistan need positivity, not whatever Sarfraz Ahmed was doing
The writing was on the wall for the hosts one over into the fifth day. Needing seven wickets from 89 overs, Sarfraz was behind the stumps, shaking his head and wondering what was going on.
It was almost as if he was questioning why they were even on the field.
In the long run, it rubbed off on his team and they struggled to maintain positive momentum and energy for any length of time.
The primary duty of a captain is tactics, but the level of negativity on display was a bad look for Sarfraz, and while it’s in his nature, it’s not good enough.
Pakistan are very much a confidence team. The only time they looked like taking wickets during the match was when they were on a run because the side were up and about, trying to make things happen.
But, like the proverbial park cricket team playing fifth grade, ten overs without a wicket would send them back into their shell where they struggled to even show an interest in the game – outside Abbas that is.
It cost them big time in the end, and a similar level of attitude this time could make the result even worse.
Where are Australia getting wickets on flat decks?
Bowling on flat, lifeless pitches should be nothing new to Australia. While it wasn’t the way in their tour of South Africa, the last home summer, bringing with it an Ashes series, saw them spend five Tests on pitches providing nothing.
Australia have always found a way to make that work for them, but in the first Test of this series, something was missing from the wicket-taking formula.
While the images days before the first ball in Abu Dhabi look like there is grass on the wicket, whatever life it has will be gone inside the first day as the sun bakes the wicket.
For that reason, Australia will again need to find ways to make things work.
Nathan Lyon is undoubtedly the key man, and Peter Siddle’s grind goes a long way in helping out the cause, but it’s down to Jon Holland and whether he can do a job for the tourists.
He was pretty ordinary in the first Test, struggling to land the ball consistently with the exception of a short period at the end of Day 3 when he took a couple of wickets. Holland needs to not focus on trying to rip the ball around corners, but rather, being consistent and bowling a flatter, more consistent length.
Pakistan’s took a liking to him during the first Test, and the slower he bowled, the easier things got.
There is plenty of pressure on Holland to deliver during the second Test.
Jon Holland of Australia takes his hat from the umpire (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
With Australia taking all the momentum and confidence with them and only needing to not collapse in a heap to stand a chance in this Test, there is every chance they will come out rolling, fight through the tough times like Pakistan seemingly can’t and come away with victory.
Winning the toss would help, as would Yasir Shah having another quiet Test, but with Usman Khawaja finding his touch, Australia should have the arsenal to get this done.
Australia to win a close one.
Key information: Pakistan vs Australia second Test
Dates: Tuesday October 16 – Saturday October 20
First ball: 5pm (AEDT)
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi
TV: Live, Fox Cricket 501
Online: Live, Foxtel app, Foxtel now
Betting: Pakistan $2.50, Australia $2.75, draw $4.10
Umpires: Richard Illingworth, S.Ravi
Note: Hours of play can be changed and modified due to weather. An extra hour is available each day should time be lost. The start of play can be brought forward by half an hour if weather prevented overs being bowled the day before. Play can be extended by half an hour should overs not be bowled due to slow over rates.
Don’t forget, here at The Roar, we will have your every need covered throughout the match with a live blog and highlights of each day’s play on the site.
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