Amir's form among takeaways from Pakistan's tour game win in SA

Waseem Ahmed 21/12/2018
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Mohammad Amir.

Pakistan warmed up nicely for their upcoming three-match Test series against South Africa with a six-wicket win in their tour warm-up game at Benoni on Friday.

The tourists chased down a target of 195 inside 41 overs in their second innings on the third and final day of their warm-up tie against a Cricket South Africa Invitational XI.

With the upcoming battle against the Proteas set to be a litmus test for Pakistan, we look at the three things they have learned from their sole warm-up clash.

KEY BATSMEN FIND FORM

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has been constantly banging on about the need for his batsmen to put on big partnerships. After what happened over the three days, the wicketkeeper-batsman should be delighted.

Azhar Ali and Babar Azam looked extremely assured in their first innings tons while opener Imam-ul-Haq and Haris Sohail struck form in the second innings with brisk half-centuries.

Uncapped Shan Masood gave a good account of himself too in both the innings while Fakhar Zaman got decent starts in both outings.

The only worry in the batting department is the skipper’s own form with Sarfraz’s struggles with the bat showing no signs of ending.

Babar Azam and Azhar Ali looked solid with the bat.

Babar Azam and Azhar Ali looked solid with the bat.

MOHAMMAD AMIR LOOKING GOOD ON RETURN

Having not been picked for the clashes against Australia and New Zealand in the UAE, all eyes were on how Mohammad Amir.

The Pakistan pacer endured a dismal year in limited-overs cricket before he was finally axed from the squad following his listless showings in the Asia Cup. In a bid to rediscover his form and swing, Amir returned to Pakistan’s domestic circuit.

Based on his display at Benoni, it’s safe to say that the 26-year-old remains a threat in overseas conditions. The left-armed quick picked up just one wicket in the first innings but looked back to his best in the second where he claimed three scalps in his 12 overs.

Amir’s return to form will come as a huge boost for the visitors in South Africa where conditions are set to favour the seamers.

The rhythm was back in Amir's bowling.

The rhythm was back in Amir’s bowling.

ABBAS’ ABSENCE REFLECTING ON PACE ATTACK

While Mohammad Amir did look on his return, Pakistan’s pace attack failed to pack a punch in the absence of Mohammad Abbas who is still nursing an injury.

Hasan Ali picked up one wicket from the 16 overs he sent down in the first innings before going wicketless in the second. Teen pacer Shaheen Afridi was flat in the first innings before picking up one wicket in the second.

Seaming all-rounder Faheem Ashraf chipped in with a three-wicket match haul and he will be crucial to providing the right balance in the Test series.

Although Amir looks in good touch, Hasan and Afridi will need to quickly adapt to the conditions in South Africa in what is their maiden tour of the country.

Hasan Ali failed to look like a real threat in both innings.

Hasan Ali failed to look like a real threat in both innings.

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Michael Hussey advises India to play Hardik Pandya in Boxing Day Test against Australia

Sudhir Gupta 21/12/2018
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India all-rounder Hardik Pandya.

Former Australia batsman Michael Hussey has advised India to consider playing Hardik Pandya in the third Test against the hosts which commences on Boxing Day at Melbourne.

Hussey believes that an all-rounder of Pandya’s ilk could give India much greater balance on a Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) pitch where conditions are set to be remarkably different than that of Perth.

Skipper Virat Kohli fielded a four-man all-pace attack in the second Test at Perth with his decision to omit a spinner backfiring massively. The team’s lengthy tail did it no favours either with India’s lower-order barely making any contributions with the bat.

With Pandya making his return to the squad after recovering from a back injury, Hussey feels that the all-rounder could be a great asset for the tourists at Melbourne.

Pandya has just recently recovered from a back injury.

Pandya has just recently recovered from a back injury.

“Conditions in Perth were quite unique and in Melbourne conditions will be totally different. I thought the Indian fast bowling unit has bowled beautifully in this series. They bowled a lot of overs in Adelaide and Perth in hot conditions, but had to work hard (for Australian wickets),” Hussey was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India (PTI).

“He (Pandya) is a bit like Mitchell Marsh, when he is in form. You get an extra bowling option that can take a little load away from the pacers particularly as the four-match series wears on. So this (bowling all-rounder) is something for both sides to look at,” he continued.

There is nothing to separate the two sides so far as they head to Melbourne for the traditional Boxing Day Test. India took a 1-0 lead in the four-match series with a 31-run win at Adelaide before the hosts came storming back with a 146-run victory at Perth to level matters.

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Australia v India Tests: Perth pitch rated 'average' by the ICC

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Perth pitch rated just 'average'.

The pitch used for the second Test between Australia and India has reportedly been rated ‘average’, which is just pass marks in cricketing terms.

Cricket Australia’s website cricket.com.au reported that the wicket at the new Perth Stadium has received ‘the lowest possible pass mark from the ICC’.

The report stated that match referee Ranjan Madugalle gave his rating after some batsmen were hit on the body due to alarming bounce even as many deliveries barely bounced over the ankle.

In an effort to improve ground conditions, the ICC had introduced a system for Test venues with five ratings – very good, good, average, below average and poor.

Australia batsman Aaron Finch retired hurt after a Mohammed Shami delivery hit him on the right glove in Perth. Also, Usman Khawaja and Marcus Harris were hit on the body by rising deliveries. Moreover, Pat Cummins was bowled by a delivery that stayed dangerously low.

The report stated the Adelaide Oval pitch received a ‘very good’ rating.

Last year, the Melbourne pitch received a ‘poor’ rating as Australia and England played out a draw on a wicket that barely changed in nature. MCG’s curator Matt Page has been tasked with putting more life into the pitch for Boxing Day Test.

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