What Can Babar's Boys do to Turn Things Around in the Pink-ball Adelaide Test
Do you remember when did Pakistan last win a Test match in Australia? Probably not. It's not quite your fault. It has actually been that long.
The last time Pakistan tasted some success Down Under was way back in 1995. Since then, the team has lost 12 consecutive Tests on Australian soil, three of them being by more than an innings, including their latest thumping at the Gabba.
There cannot obviously be a complete paradigm shift in a couple of days. But, what are the best solutions at hand that Pakistan can adopt to save face on the tour after a genuinely disappointing T20I series and the first Test?
Pink ball, a Pakistani ally
For starters, something that might naturally serve as an advantage is that the Test match will be played under the lights with the pink ball. It might sound counter-intuitive but Pakistan will have their best chance in conditions that are conducive for pace bowling.
When conditions become batting friendly, the Australian batting line-up at the moment appears to be too strong for the Pakistani bowlers to break through in home conditions. With conditions coming at their rescue, the gap between the two sides in terms of batting reduces and the Pakistani bowling attack can then step up to give their counterparts a tough fight.
Aussie quick Josh Hazlewood also has similar thoughts. "I think the Adelaide wicket and pink ball will suit them [Pakistan]. A lot of them have nice wrists and present a nice seam. So I think they will be able to swing it around. Whether Abbas comes in or not is up to them obviously. I think they have got a number of guys who can bowl well with the new ball. I think it will be hard work, especially when it's new. But throughout the whole Test I think it will be hard work."
Bring the spearhead back
One team change that is almost inevitable for Pakistan is the inclusion of Mohammad Abbas in the playing XI. In fact, it was a no-brainer even before the beginning of the series with Abbas having troubled Australia the most in the past.
However, Pakistan went on the current form of Imran Khan in the practice match and rested Abbas - a clear error in tactics. The potency of Abbas' nagging speed and accuracy will increase manifold under the lights, with the pink ball that moves appreciably.
The other option could be to keep Imran Khan in the playing XI due to his exploits in the practice match with the pink ball and with him having confidence with that cherry. Instead the team can rest Naseem Shah who bowled 20 overs of seriously quick stuff at the Gabba and given his age, it might be a good option. Musa Khan also has an outside chance of coming in for Shah.
Throw in the Imam anchor
Now, we come to the batting. Apart from Asad Shafiq in the first innings, who batted out of his natural position at number 4, Babar Azam and to some extent Shan Masood and Mohammad Rizwan, the Pakistani batting line-up disappointed by and large in conditions that were ideal for raking daddy hundreds.
In fact, leg spinner Yasir Shah looked more competent with the bat than many of the team's top-order batsmen. Haris Sohail and Iftikhar Ahmed failed in both the innings of the Brisbane Test and are under the pump with Imam-ul-Haq and Abid Ali waiting in the wings. Iftikhar may get another chance due to his ability to counter-attack and contribute with his off spin (so does Haris) as well.
Haris Sohail might be the man to be ditched for Imam-ul-Haq. Imam's inclusion will also mean a rejig in the batting order with Azhar Ali pushed down at one drop. Babar Azam may come in to bat at 4 with Asad Shafiq going back to his comfort zone at 6.
A disciplined Yasir can be handy
Yasir Shah picked the most wickets for Pakistan at the Garba, cleaning up 4 of the Oz batsmen. But, that was also due to the fact that he bowled 48.4 overs, more than twice that of Imran Khan, Naseem Shah and Haris Sohail.
At the same time, his economy of 4.21 was way over acceptable. Going for wickets is good but Shah has to bowl according to the field, on one side of the wicket. It was this attacking instinct which translated into some loose bowling, which contributed to Australia's first innings total of 580, which in essence, pushed Pakistan out of the game.
If the leggie can bowl a more economical line and length, at least in the first innings, when the ball is not doing much, while trying not to cut down on his attacking instinct as much as possible, it can serve Pakistan well. Especially, given that it is a day-night Test and most of his bowling will take place in the first session.
It's a different matter that Shah did not do the team great service by riling up Steve Smith with his over the top celebration after dismissing the batsman. The celebration highlighted that he has dismissed Smith 7 times in Tests. The former Australian skipper will be determined to set the record straight in Adelaide.
©Cricket World 2019