PAK vs. AUS - Second Test
MATCH UP STATS
PAK vs. AUS - Second Test
Best bets for MOTMPakistan: Yasir Shah - $8 at SportsbetAustralia: Nathan Lyon - $12 at Sportsbet
SOMEHOW, Australia head to Abu Dhabi with a chance to win a Test series in Asia for the first time since 2011.
They owe that opportunity to Usman Khawaja, who spent all but a couple of hours on the field of play and faced some 477 deliveries for his 226 runs.
He found some willing partners in the second innings, with Travis Head (72) making an impact on debut before Tim Paine (61*) navigated a nervy finish.
Nevertheless, Dubai threw up more questions than answers for the Aussies.
The Marsh brothers were ineffectual, both bowing out for ducks when the tourists needed someone to steady the ship in the second dig.
Mitchell Starc struggled under a heavy workload on his return from injury, but the NSW spearhead has declared himself fit for the second Test.
He is also expecting a far drier playing surface in Abu Dhabi than the green, grassy wicket that was unveiled over the weekend.
“It might be completely different tomorrow when they cut the grass off,” Starc told reporters.
“If we were playing on it today, the fast bowlers would be pretty happy with the covering of grass.
“A lot of us expect that grass to be gone by tomorrow and probably even less come game day.
“We’re ready for whatever they throw at us and will try to back up from a good fight in that first Test.”
For Pakistan, this is a time to bounce back after letting a golden chance slip.
They can draw plenty of positives from the first Test, most of all the virtuoso performance of fit-again Yasir Shah in the second innings.
Mohammed Hafeez justified his recall with a tone-setting century, while Haris Sohail broke through for his maiden Test ton.
Also impressive was Imam-ul-Haq, but the young left-handed opener will miss the series closer after breaking a finger in the field.
That could mean a Test debut for ODI star Fakhar Zaman, although he has not played any first-class cricket since October last year.
Another option is allrounder Shadab Khan, who is racing to prove his fitness after some time out with a groin injury.
Usman Khawaja odds and specials
- +140 to score 50 or more
- +275 for top Australia runscorer
- +1200 for man of the match
Khawaja’s efforts in the opening Test could have a significant impact on Australia’s summer as a whole.
Thanks to the stylish lefty’s poise under pressure, what was looking like the first in a series of disappointments has instead become a small source of hope.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Khawaja’s batting in Dubai was his handling of spin – so often cited as an incurable ailment in his game.
The defence was rock solid, the sweep shots and reverse paddles were right on the money, and his footwork down the track was near flawless.
Fatigue could be an issue in Abu Dhabi, but there is nobody in the Australian batting order who looks a match for Khawaja right now.
More tips and player picks
- Mitchell Marsh under 23.5 runs – -113.64
- Australia for highest opening partnership – -105.26
- Azhar Ali to score 50 or more – +140
- Mohammed Abbas for top Pakistan bowler – +300
Pakistan vs. Australia match predictions
Australia showed something in Dubai.
Khawaja was the standout, but there was also a genuine captain’s knock from Paine and some big efforts from the likes of Aaron Finch, Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle at various stages.
The question is: if one or two of those guys miss the mark this time around, can you rely on Marnus Labuschagne or one of the Marshes to step up?
Imam’s injury is a blow for Pakistan, but they have a number of replacement options at their disposal.
Their older heads are more experienced than Australia’s and their knowledge of the conditions is far superior.
But they also have that ‘Pakistan factor’ – that signature volatility that makes them so hard to back.
A rock-hard track at Abu Dhabi should make for easy batting again on the first day or two, so include the draw in your calculations.
Top tip: Australia to win or draw – -120.48 at Bet365
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