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The first test between Pakistan and Australia turned out to be an absolute epic. Is there any other sport where a draw after five days of play can be so exhilarating? We don’t think so! Australia fought back after being written off and ensured that the second test will be played with everything on the line. Pakistan has now gone just about two years since winning its last test in the UAE. Their last four results have included three losses and a draw.
With conditions in their favor and the Australian side missing some of its best players, Pakistan will be under pressure to win this match convincingly. For Australia, this represents perhaps one of their best opportunities in recent years to record a series win in the sub-content. Which side will buckle first?
There were a lot of things that went right for Pakistan in the first test. They won the toss and promptly elected to bat first. Their recalled player, Mohammad Hafeez, scored a century on comeback and looked perfectly at ease.
Runs from Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, and Asad Shafiq ensured that Pakistan would end the first inning with a giant score. This then puts the Pakistani batting in pretty good form. Injury has ruled out Imam-ul-Haq for this match and we expect to see Fakhar Zaman take up the responsibility.
It will be interesting to see how Fakhar copes with test cricket against a very useful Australian attack. His form in the Asia Cup just concluded was terrible, he has played mostly white ball cricket in the last couple of years, and is replacing an in-form player.
We would recommend backing Fakhar Zaman to get out early. Keep in mind, though, that he scores quickly and can be very dangerous on the flat conditions the UAE has to offer.
Still, all things considered, Pakistan has a good batting lineup that should be able to thwart the Aussies with the conditions on its side. Things might become interesting, though, if Pakistan has to bat fourth in this test and ends up chasing a decent total on a crumbing fifth-day pitch.
The real concern for Pakistan heading into this match will be its bowling. Bilal Asif took six wickets in his first inning of test cricket but then was absolutely listless in the second. His ineffectiveness in the second inning will raise concerns and could lead to him being dropped in favor of Shadab Khan. It will be tough on Bilal but we think that is the way to go for Pakistan.
The most impressive bowler for Pakistan in this test has been Mohammad Abbas. The fast bowler bowled an immaculate line and length the entire match. He does not have express pace but can utilize reverse swing very effectively as well.
On a surface that traditionally suits the spinners, Mohammad Abbas may be a good value punt to take the most wickets in the match.
What about Yasir Shah, though? Apart from a brief period of play where Yasir Shah ran riot, the Pakistani spinner would have been disappointed by his return. He lacked the consistency we associate with him and was visibly perturbed by Usman Khawaja reverse sweeping him with ease.
If Pakistan doesn’t find a way to get their spinners bowling at their best, they could well face a tough time in this match.
F Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed, Bilal Asif, Yasir Shah, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Abbas.
Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch continued the tradition of opening batsmen doing well in UAE as they negotiated the Pakistani bowlers with ease. It was notable to see both the batsmen not just play the fast bowlers without any trouble but to also have clear plans against the spinners.
Usman Khawaja was the obvious hero for Australia but Aaron Finch’s contribution cannot be played down either. It would seem like a smart choice to stick with one of these two as the top-scorer for Australia.
Usman Khawaja has just played two innings of substance in spinning conditions, though, and Aaron Finch is a little too mercurial for our liking. We would give both of these players a pass and look at more value in the middle order.
Our pick would be Shaun Marsh. He had a terrible first match scoring seven runs in total. He does, however, have the backing of the coach and the ability to play spin well. His poor scores would have been disconcerting if he would have spent some time at the crease and looked uncomfortable. Instead, a total of 28 deliveries faced could just mean that he got two good balls or played two poor shots.
With Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, and Tim Paine also assured of their place we could see Marnus Lambuschagne be dropped for this match in favor of Matt Renshaw. It would be tough on Lambuschagne who also contributed with his leg-spin but Matt Renshaw seems one of the most likely players to succeed in these playing conditions.
The Aussies had to dig really deep down in the last match to be able to salvage a draw in the first match. That confidence should help them put up a better batting display, particularly if they can win the toss and bat first!
The bowling for Australia was quite good. They stuck to their task even when the Pakistani batsmen were playing solidly and kept picking wickets to peg them back. There has been some talk about Australia dropping Holland and going in with an extra pacer but we don’t see that happening.
Siddle and Holland have the ability to win Australia matches particularly if they get to bowl on a surface that is breaking up. Starc, Siddle, and the all-rounders all put in valiant performances and should be able to keep their place.
It will be interesting to see if Lambuschagne is able to keep his place in the team on the basis of bowling rather than the runs he scored.
Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, TM Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Michael Lyon, Jon Holland.
The team winning the toss is certainly going to choose to bat first
Read our guide on toss predictions to learn how we analyze and come up with our tips.
Hot and dry weather lies in store for both the teams in Abu Dhabi. The pitch has been getting a lot of attention with plenty of grass on it a few days out. There is no question that this grass will be shaved off before the start and would have been kept in to prevent the pitch from breaking up too early.
The Abu Dhabi pitch is usually flat and difficult for the bowlers. A similar cadence of play where the pitch seems dead for the first three or even four days before coming to life can be expected.
The favorite for this contest is obviously Pakistan. They have the conditions, the players, and the opposition that should make things easy for them. Evidence of their last few matches in UAE, including the first test against Australia, proves that things may not be so straightforward.
We recommend backing Australia to win at current odds and then hedging through some careful in-play betting.
Back Australia to win.