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The Australian test team always gets attention from the cricketing world no matter where it is playing. Over the last few years, though, playing in the sub-continent and UAE has been particularly tough for the side. This time, though, the interest is going to be heightened because of the players that are missing out. Steve Smith, David Warner, and Cameron Bancroft, all players assured of a place in the side at one time are going to missing due to their ball-tampering ban. Josh Hazelwood and Pat Cummins are also missing because of injury. A young Aussie side is going to have a hard time taking on Pakistan in their home conditions.
Pakistan itself has been undergoing a change of sorts as it tries to incorporate a modern method of playing ODI cricket. This means that a lot of its test specialists will have been out of action for a long time. Making a comeback to international cricket against Australia is not going to be easy, irrespective of the missing players. The first test promises to be very intriguing.
Pakistan is the home team in this contest and goes into the series as absolute favorites. After all, they beat a full-strength Australian side 2-0 in 2014 when they played in UAE so why should it be any different this time around?
We agree with the fact that Pakistan is the undisputed favorite for this series but this team has a few problems which the Aussies could exploit. The biggest problem that the Pakistan team faces is in getting the team composition right.
Shadab Khan, Pakistan’s first choice leg-spinner in the limited overs format, has been injured and will not play the first test. That means that Yasir Shah is the only leg-spinner in the squad. There is no doubt that Yasir Shah is quality but will he be enough to put the pressure on the Aussies alone?
Mohammad Hafeez and Bilal Asif are expected to play to try and provide more spinning options to Pakistan. Asif, though, is untried and Hafeez is making a return to bowling in international cricket after a long time.
His action will be under scrutiny and he could feel the pressure.
Mohammad Amir has been dropped from the side and so Mohammad Abbas and possibly Hasan Ali could be the two fast bowlers in the side with one of Wahab Riaz or Mir Hamza being the third fast bowling option.
The selection of this bowling attack does not seem appropriate to the conditions and that is exactly why Pakistan suffered in the Asia Cup as well. If Yasir Shah has a poor test match then the Pakistanis are going to be in real strife.
What about the Pakistani batting?
The last test that Pakistan played saw Azhar Ali open with Imam-ul-Haq and there is no reason to change that this time around as well. Haris Sohail batted at three followed by Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, and Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Mohammad Hafeez could slot in for Haris Sohail while Bilal Asif could replace Fahim Ashraf to bat after Sarfaraz Ahmed. This lends some strength to the batting but how well this lineup faces against some top quality pace will be the question.
The Pakistan side that demolished Australia last time around had Azhar Ali and Misbah-ul Haq leading their batting and a trio of spinners that were at the top of their game. They need to find some similar leaders of the side this time around, otherwise, they could find things getting out of hand.
Mohammad Hafeez, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Bilal Asif, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Abbas.
It is quite easy to write Australia off before this match and even the series. Paying in conditions conducive to spin has never been one of Australia’s strong points, traveling abroad has been a problem for the side in recent years, and they are missing almost half their first-choice test side.
We still believe that they have a good chance of pushing Pakistan and maybe even causing an upset or two. Australia will have to decide which direction its side goes in this match because a number of slots are open at the moment.
It looks certain that Aaron Finch, Marnus Lambuschagne, and Travis Head are going to be in the side which may mean on Matt Renshaw missing out. Personally, we would like to see Renshaw in the side irrespective of who else gets picked because he seems to have the temperament to succeed in these conditions.
Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Usman Khawaja, and Tim Paine are likely to be the other batsmen in this side. Both the Marsh brothers must have a brilliant series if Australia is to compete against Pakistan.
They have been in good form, are good players of spin, and can score runs without getting bogged down. If Finch, Head, and Khawaja can also counter their demons against spin then Australia may be able to get enough runs to stay in the match.
We believe that Australia has the better bowling attack, even in these conditions, and will be very effective against a rickety Pakistan batting unit.
Mitchell Starc has the pace to pick wickets with the new ball or rip out tail-enders. He will also utilize any reverse swing that is available. One between Siddle and Nesser will play as the second seamer but the bulk of the bowling will be done by the two spinners.
Lyon and Holland are certain to play this match and will test the Pakistani batting. Nathan Lyon is a much-improved spinner from the last time he traveled to UAE. Both he and Holland were able to get the better of a strong Indian batting lineup in India.
They will be confident of having a good series and how they go against the Pakistan batting will be critical to the overall result.
Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, TM Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine, Nathan Michael Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Jon Holland.
The team winning the toss will bat first almost certainly. Winning the toss and batting first is going to be a huge advantage so factor that in while making your bet.
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
The weather in Dubai is going to be hot and the pitch is going to be dry. There has been an incredible amount of cricket that has been played in Dubai with the Asia Cup being the most recent one. The pitch should start out flat and then slowly begin to take turn by the third day. Cricket on this surface has to be attritional and will build up to a crescendo slowly.
Pakistan is the obvious favorite going into this match but we believe there are enough unknowns on both sides to take a risk. Australia is currently available at 3.00 to win and that is well worth taking a punt.
We recommend backing Australia to win.
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