Pakistan’s campaign in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship has started off on a dismal note with the visitors facing a crushing defeat in the series opener against Australia in Brisbane.
Misbah-ul-Haq’s maiden red-ball assignment as head coach saw his men turned over by an innings and five runs by the marauding Australians at the Gabba. That has left the former skipper with plenty to ponder ahead of the second and final Test which begins at Adelaide on Friday.
Ahead of what is a day-night affair at the Adelaide Oval, we look at three things Pakistan need to do if they are to mount a comeback in the series.
Drop Haris Sohail
That Haris Sohail flopped badly in the preceding T20I series should have been a warning sign for Pakistan but they still opted to include him in the playing XI for the Brisbane clash.
His dismissals in the T20 clashes exposed a big deficiency against the extra bounce and the team management should have known that Australia would pounce on the same weakness in the Test clashes.
It was exactly what the hosts did with Sohail falling to identical dismissals to Mitchell Starc. On both occasions, the left-hander attempted to prod his bat at short of a length deliveries outside the off-stump. While they might have fetched him many runs on the wickets back in Pakistan or in the UAE, the extra bounce at the Gabba meant he could only feather thin edges behind to wicketkeeper Tim Paine.
Sohail has been abysmal in the entire Australian tour and the southpaw has been victim to the extra bounce in the previous T20 and warm-up clashes too. That gaping hole in his technique against rising deliveries will not be fixed overnight and Pakistan would be well advised to drop him for the Adelaide clash.
They can bring Imam-ul-Haq to open the innings alongside Shan Masood, with skipper Azhar Ali dropping down to No3 – a position he has occupied predominantly in the last few years.
While Imam’s Test numbers are not too flattering at the moment, the left-hander does have a better technique and temperament than Sohail and that could make a world of a difference in the second Test.
Get Mohammad Abbas in
This one is a no-brainer. Since making his Test debut two years ago, Abbas has established himself as one of the best seamers in the business with 66 wickets in 14 matches at an average below 19.
Hence, his omission from the playing XI at the Gabba came as a complete shock with Pakistan’s team management choosing to go with the recalled Imran Khan instead. His surprise absence for the Test would have come as a welcome one for the Australian batsmen, given the way Abbas starred in the two-match series held in the UAE last year.
Then, Abbas had claimed 17 wickets in just two matches with the Aussies finding it difficult to cope with his unwavering accuracy and subtle seam movements.
The official explanation behind Abbas’ omission from bowling coach Waqar Younis was that the seamer had been down on pace in the nets. The 29-year-old’s bowling has never been about speed anyway and to keep him out of the line-up for that reason was a foolhardy decision from the team management.
They paid the ultimate price for it in the end with Australia’s batsmen amassing a mammoth 580 runs in a single innings.
At Adelaide, light showers and rain has been forecast for most of the five days and that should make conditions even more ideal for Abbas. That it is a pink-ball Test under lights is all the more reason for Abbas to be included.
Move Rizwan up the order
While Babar Azam delighted with an excellent ton, Mohammad Rizwan was the Pakistan batsman to walk away with the most credit from the loss in Brisbane. Playing in only his second Test match, the wicketkeeper batsman displays excellent aptitude and application in both inning, and was unlucky to miss out on a maiden ton by just five runs.
The 27-year-old has had to bide his time on the sidelines over the years with Sarfraz Ahmed being the established wicketkeeping candidate for Pakistan. However, he has taken his chance with both hands in his first Test appearance since 2016. Not only did Rizwan make a big impact with the bat, he was also excellent behind the stumps with his wicketkeeping skills on a bouncy track at the Gabba being top-notch.
What Pakistan will not want to do is to waste Rizwan’s batting potential with the wicketkeeper coming in as low as No7 in both innings in the first Test. All-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed batted above him and failed miserably and it would be much more sensible for Rizwan to move up to the No6 position at least.
Whether they drop Iftikhar is another matter but Rizwan getting more time at the batting crease is a must after his Brisbane display.
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