AUSTRALIA v PAKISTAN - 1ST TEST
BRISBANE, 15 December
Australia will look to continue their summer revival as they welcome the mercurial Pakistan in a three-match Test series. The first of the three Test matches would be played at the Gabba in Brisbane under lights.
Both sides come into the series with a lot of question marks around their recent performances. Australia lost 3-0 away to Sri Lanka and then surrendered meekly at home to South Africa 2-1 in an embarrassing defeat. Although they mended their Summer travails with a facile win in the Adelaide Test, there are still concerns to be addressed. Pakistan too come on the back of a 2-0 loss in New Zealand that was largely determined by their spineless batting. Need we say anymore that both sides would be eager for a good start in the series!
Australia were abject in the first two Tests against South Africa which led to wholesale changes in the final Test. That worked wonders as the team rallied around Steve Smith, David Warner and Usman Khawaja with the bat. The three seniors will once again be expected to lead the charge at Brisbane. Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb impressed everyone with their skills but sterner test awaits them against Pakistan.
With the ball, the Aussies have lesser worries as Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc were consistent through the series against Proteas. Jackson Bird provided adequate support with the pink ball and could retain his place. Nathan Lyon bowled better with the pink ball than any of the other matches and will hope to continue his upturn of form.
There’s always interest when Pakistan tours down under. With an array of talented pace bowlers who are naturally gifted and suited to Australian pitches, Pakistan are well placed to upset the hosts. But unfortunately, the talent on paper has rarely transformed into results as seen in the past. With the likes of Azhar Ali, Younis Khan and Misbah-Ul-Haq in their ranks, there is enough experience to post healthy totals. But as seen in the practice match against CA Invitation XI, there’s always a tentative side to their batting that lets them down.
The bowling attack inspires awe with Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz forming a top-notch left-arm combination with the new ball. Amir can be devastating with his pace and swing and will be crucial to their hopes. They are sweating on the fitness of Yasir Shah who if fit and playing, will be difficult to tackle under lights.
Betfair: Australia start as heavy favorites as seen in the odds of 1.37 offered on their win. Pakistan still look unsettled as seen in the practice match and punting on their win at odds of 6.60 looks slightly risky.
Warner is in such good form that he should be looking forward to another fruitful outing in Brisbane. At odds of 3.75 (Ladbrokes), he is a safe punt to be Australia’s best batsman. Hazlewood could be your punt to be Australia’s best bowler at odds of 3.25. For Pakistan, it could be Azhar Ali with the bat – odds of 5.00 and Amir with the ball – odds of 3.25 who look top punts.