The first Test match between Pakistan and Australia was a slow burner which developed into a thrilling finish and if the second match, which begins in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, has an ending even half as good we are in for something special.
Australia somehow batted out the final day in Dubai and as a result the entire series is on the line in this series match with both nations now knowing they are going to have to toil hard for five days to get the outcome they desire.
It looked for much of the first Test that Pakistan would stroll to victory but when it came to ramming home the advantage they had built up they were unable to do so. That means there is pressure on them to get the job done here as a failure to win the series will bring that lack of ruthlessness back to the fore and be held against them.
In fairness I didn’t think Pakistan did a whole lot wrong in the opening game. They probably batted on for longer than they needed to but that only comes with hindsight which Sarfraz would not have had at his disposal at the time. They could have scored a little quicker if you was being picky but even then you would have expected 140 overs to be enough to bowl Australia out a second time.
The tourists will take plenty of heart from their fight and their determination on that final day but at the same time they will need to recognise that it papered over a few cracks. I guess they will appreciate that in these conditions they are going to have to tough it out so they shouldn’t be overly criticised when it turns out that they need to do just that.
In an ideal world though I think they will expect to bowl much better as a unit. They will also want their experienced players in the middle order to stand up and be counted a little more. In two innings only one of their four men from three to six in the line up went on to score more than 13 in an innings. That just won’t cut it at this level.
Pakistan will be forced into one change for this match with Imam-ul-Haq out with a broken digit. Fakhar Zaman is expected to make his Test debut in his absence. There is talk that Wahab Riaz could be left out but that would be a big call.
Australia are toying over the make up of their bowling attack with John Holland’s place in the side looking vulnerable. Ashton Agar would not only give another spin option but would bolster their batting so he’s the most likely replacement.
Sheikh Zayed Stadium
This will be Test match number 11 on this ground and Pakistan have a wonderful record in the 10 that have been played so far. They have won five of those matches and drawn four with just the one defeat, which came against Sri Lanka. Australia played here in 2014 and were well beaten.
History suggests that this ground will be in keeping with the others in the Middle East in that it will be good to bat on in the first innings but the longer the match goes on the ball will start to turn. On the last two days of the match we could see the ball turning square.
I think we saw enough in the first Test to see that the match betting is a poisoned chalice. I certainly wouldn’t want to get involved without knowing the outcome of the toss as you would think whoever wins it will bat first and build up a sizeable advantage. I’m not going to let this match go by without a bet though so I’ll head for the side markets.
Asad Shafiq made scores of 80 and 41 in the first Test and snaffled a couple of grabs at short leg in a match which saw him make up a performance total of 141pts. With that in mind I’m surprised he has a line of just 85.5pts for this second Test. In 13 innings on this ground he has five 50s and a century and averages more than 50 an innings. His last three matches at this venue has yielded performance totals of 123, 136 and 89pts. That all tells me the over is a good thing.
Back A.Shafiq’s Performance – Over 85.5pts for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with Betfair
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