Azhar Ali earmarked as Pakistan's biggest threat by Australia quicks

Waseem Ahmed 12:32 02/10/2018
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Danger man: Azhar Ali.

Mitchel Starc and Peter Siddle are set to play big roles for Australia in the upcoming Test series against Pakistan with injuries to key players diminishing the team’s pace reserves.

With Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood ruled out of the series in the UAE due to injuries, Starc and Siddle are expected to do the bulk of Australia’s pace bowling.

The two fast bowlers will have their work cut out against Pakistan opener Azhar Ali, who they have earmarked as the prize scalp in the series.

“They’ve got a quality batting line-up, and on some really flat wickets their whole middle-order’s going to be a really good battle,” Starc told cricket.com.au.

“I think someone like Azhar Ali, who scored a fair few runs against us in Australia last time they were here, he’d be a big one at the top of the order for them.

“He can bat long periods of time, he’s not too fazed about being tied down. So I think if we can get him early and get their middle-order in against a newer, harder ball, then that’s a good starting point.”

Azhar Ali registered a double ton in Melbourne in 2016.

Azhar has tormented Australia in the past.

Azhar Ali has a stellar record as an opener for Pakistan, scoring over 5,000 runs in 65 matches at an average of nearly 45. He has 14 Test tons to his name with three of them coming against the Aussies.

His record facing the Baggy Green is even more impressive with the batsman aggregating 837 runs in seven Tests at an average of 69.75. When Australia took on Pakistan in the UAE in 2014, the right-hander became the eighth batsman from his country to register a ton in both innings of a Test after slamming 109 and an unbeaten 100 at Abu Dhabi.

In the last Test series between the two sides held in Australia in 2016-17, Azhar had smashed an unbeaten double ton in Melbourne and was the second-highest run-scorer in the series behind Steve Smith.

Siddle, who is returning to the Test squad after a gap of two years, echoed Starc’s sentiments in pinpointing the threat posed by Azhar Ali.

“The key wicket for them is always going to be Azhar Ali. He’s one of the leaders in that side now,” Siddle said.

Starc and Siddle will carry Australia's pace hopes in the series.

Starc and Siddle will carry Australia’s pace hopes in the series.

“From the last tour when we went over there, they had the stars and the old heads of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to lead them, they’re probably a little bit less experienced now, which is good news for us, but they’ve still got a lot of class players.

“We saw that on the last tour (to Australia) – they had a lot of young guys that stood up and performed well for them.

“So I think (Azhar) is going to be the big wicket, but in that time these young guys have come about, and they play some exciting cricket, so we’ve got to be on our toes and prepared.”

The first Test between the two sides will get underway in Dubai on October 7 with the second game in Abu Dhabi starting on October 16.

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