Karachi, March 11: Pakistan and Australia, the top two teams in the ICC World Test Championship standings, hope to breathe some life into the three-match series when the second Test kicks off at the National Stadium here on Saturday.
After a monotonous opening test in Rawalpindi, with ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle also giving the field a ‘below average’ rating, both sides would like to make changes to their sides to revive the historical series.
Only 14 wickets fell in five days in the historic Rawalpindi Test and all stakeholders will be hoping for a better prepared release for the second Test. With a field more conducive to five-day cricket likely for the second Test, both teams would like to inject some new faces into their line-up in a bid for a positive result.
Pakistan may try to rearrange their attacking tempo with Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf in contention, while Australia is expected to include a second spinner if conditions suit.
No-stop leg spinner Mitchell Swepson may team up with the experienced Nathan Lyon, while left arm spinner Ashton Agar could also have a chance to impress. History suggests that Pakistan will be hard to beat in this contest as the hosts have won 23 and lost just two of the 43 Tests they played at the National Stadium.
Australia have a poor record on the ground and have yet to win a test in eight attempts on the ground.
Australia currently sits atop the ICC World Test Championship standings with a winning percentage of 77.77, while Pakistan is second with a winning percentage of 66.66, according to ICC.
It was on this course almost 24 years ago that Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi made his Test debut and the then 18-year-old made an instant impression by claiming his first five-wicket haul during the opening innings of Australia.
The match ended in a draw, with Mark Waugh’s 117 in the second inning nullified by Ijaz Ahmed’s undefeated 120 on the fifth and final day as both sides shook hands early. Interestingly, a dry Karachi field meant that both teams selected three spinners for the Test.
Afridi teamed up with midfielder Arshad Khan and left arm Shakeel Ahmed, while Australia used versatile Colin Miller alongside New South Wales duo Stuart MacGill and Gavin Robertson.
“I hope this series, in the future, will become more interesting, but only one match has been finished, so don’t rush, there is a lot of cricket to play,” said PCB chairman Ramiz Raja.
“Our information for Karachi and Lahore (is that two spinners) is probably the way to go. We’ll take a look at the wicket first. (Playing two spinners) may have been helpful here, but I don’t think it would have made too much of a difference.” Australia captain Pat Cummins said.
Pakistan Team: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Zahid Mahmood.
Team Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. Waiting: Sean Abbott, Brendan Doggett, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Renshaw.