Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed backed experienced leg-spinner Yasir Shah to put a depleted Australian team under pressure when the two sides clash in the first of two Tests starting in Dubai from Sunday.
The Baggy Greens lost 2-0 to Pakistan in UAE in 2014, with Yasir taking 12 scalps and left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar 14. However this time Yasir is the main spinner in the team. He will most likely by supported by off-spinning all-rounder Bilal Asif, who is set to make his debut, and veteran Mohammad Hafeez who is returning to the team after a gap of two years having also cleared his action.
Australia will have to manage without regular skipper Steve Smith and opener David Warner, along with Cameron Bancroft, who are still banned for their part in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in March.
Sarfraz said he won’t give Australia any breathing space in their first Test since the ball-tampering saga.
“When we played Australia in 2014 we played some attacking cricket,” Sarfraz was quoted as saying by AFP.
“Yasir is our main bowler so we will want him to attack and get us wickets to win the series. But similarly we will not put extra pressure on him and will not want him to go in a defensive mode so other bowlers will have to support him.”
The other leg-spinner in the squad – Shadab Khan – is likely to miss the first Test as he has not fully recovered from a groin injury. Recalled Hafeez will therefore be the third spinner.
Sarfraz added Pakistan’s batsmen will face a major challenge against Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon who took 8-103 in the warm-up match in Dubai this week.
“We attacked him four years ago and at that time we had great batsmen in Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq,” Sarfraz said about Lyon, who managed just three wickets in two Tests in 2014.
“Four years on he is a better bowler so he will be their main bowler and a challenge for us,” he added. Lyon took 41 wickets in six matches in India and Bangladesh last year.
Australian captain Tim Paine had earlier admitted Yasir will be a big threat.
“Yasir is clearly a world-class bowler who’s got a phenomenal record at this ground in Dubai. We’re going to have to take everything we’ve been working on,” said Paine.
“We’ve faced a hell of a lot spin, there’s no doubt about that and Australian touring sides always do.”
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