“They have the potential, but lack of experience could get the better of them”
Talking about Test cricket, Australia are an intimidating side; their presence is daunting on the field. However, the same sensation has gone for a toss in the recent times, especially in the sub-continent. Their run in this side of the planet has been miserable. In last 15 games, spanning over five tours, Australia have managed to win just two and lost 12, which is certainly not the benchmark they set in whites. Australia would certainly want to better these numbers in their upcoming Test series against Pakistan in the UAE.
Australia are coming from a Test series loss against South Africa in their backyard. Their last series in the sub-continent against Bangladesh ended in a draw and one can expect this series to be a tough nut to crack in the absence of David Warner and Steve Smith. Smith has been the backbone and scored runs in heaps. He has a magnificent record in the sub-continent, averaging 48 in 26 innings and his absence will hurt Australia massively. On this tour, the Australian side on a whole, lack experience, in fact, it’s the first Asian tour for five Australian players in the squad. The most experienced player, Nathan Lyon, has played just 17 Tests in the sub-continent with the second one being Mitchell Starc with eight games under his belt.
Spinners have feasted on vulnerable Australian batting and wreaked havoc with the ball. Australian batsmen have looked clueless in spinning conditions in the recent times, which has been the main reason behind their terrible record in the sub-continent. Australia lost the series they last played against Pakistan in the sub-continent, which was again dominated by spinners. In this series, the selectors have hand-picked players mainly on their performance in the A tour to Indian last month. Let’s analyse the Australian squad for this series.
Australia would be pleased with their performance in the Tour game; where three of their batsmen confronted more than 200 deliveries, but can they translate it into the series is the big question. Mitchell Marsh made an inspiring 162 off 298 deliveries and seems to have adjusted to the conditions quite well. Shaun Marsh and Travis Head scored 94 and 90 not out respectively.
Marnus Lebaschagne impressed with his 39 not out off 73 deliveries and should be in the scheme of things for the first Test. Aaron Finch is expected to make his Test debut on Sunday, he did score a tenacious fifty in the Tour game and has the ingredients to succeed in the longest format of the game. Usman Khawaja’s weaknesses against spin have been quite evident, it will be interesting to see if Australia give him a go.
Matt Renshaw is unlikely to play the first Test after being struck on the head while fielding at short leg in the Tour game. Skipper Tim Paine didn’t get a chance to play in the Tour game and his form in the recent times has also not been up to the mark. He needs to rediscover his lost mojo before it’s too late in the two-match series.
Talking about bowling, Michael Nesser scalped five wickets in the second innings of the Tour game and is one of the most promising talents in the country. Peter Siddle’s recent First-Class form has been striking and has enough Test experience to make it to the playing XI. In Ashton Agar and Jon Holland, Australia have spin bowling all-rounders. Aagr could be very handy with his left-arm spin and his ability to score runs lower down the order.
Mitchell Starc ran through Sri Lanka’s batting on docile surfaces in 2016, he holds the key for Australia’s success in the UAE. Spinners will have a huge role to play for sure, but one cannot overlook the kind of damage Starc is capable of causing with his sheer pace and immaculate control.
Australia will expect it’s Nathan Lyon to roar in the sub-continent conditions; he also has a much-improved record. He is Australia’s most successful off-spinner and the most experienced player in this squad too. Lyon has accounted for 41 wickets in his last six Test appearances in Asia at a staggering average of 19.39. He will be the bowler to look out for and will pose a threat of a different kind to the Pakistani batsmen. Lyon ran through Pakistan A side in the tour match, accounting for eight wickets in the first innings.
If Australia manage to replicate their impactful Tour match performance in the Test series, Pakistan will definitely have some serious problems. Pakistan lost their latest Test series in UAE against Sri Lanka; there is no reason why Australia cannot do the same. In the absence of two marquee players, Australia will have to bring their best game out and put up a collective performance. They have a good bowling attack and the batting will have to come out good. The signs are promising, but performance on the field is what matters the most. They have the potential, but lack of experience could get the better of them.