Mo­men­tum with Pak­istan vs weary Aussie bowl­ing at­tack

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MELBOURNE:

Pak­istan say they have the mo­men­tum head­ing into the Box­ing Day Melbourne Test af­ter giv­ing Aus­tralia a mighty fright dur­ing an epic run-chase in the open­ing clash of the se­ries. The tourists fell just 39 short of a mam­moth 490run tar­get on the fifth and fi­nal day of the Gabba Test, led by a mag­nif­i­cent 137 from Asad Shafiq.

Steve Smith was a re­lieved cap­tain as his Aus­tralia team fell over the line af­ter the last five Pak­istan wick­ets piled on 230 runs to get within sight of a world-record Test run chase. The gru­el­ing 145-over fourth in­nings has taken its toll on the Aus­tralian bowlers with se­lec­tors adding bowl­ing all-rounder Hil­ton Cartwright to the squad as a pre­cau­tion while their re­cov­ery is as­sessed. The tourists’ bat­ting coach, Gary Flower, said the Aus­tralians can ex­pect an­other hard slog on an abra­sive drop-in Melbourne Cricket Ground wicket in ex­pected swel­ter­ing con­di­tions as Pak­istan fight to level the three­match se­ries.

“The con­fi­dence they have gained since that last in­nings and that mo­men­tum will def­i­nitely help carry them on into this Test,” for­mer Zim­bab­wean Test bats­man Flower said. “It’s go­ing to be hard work for the bowlers, but if we can get into them early and if the ball starts re­vers­ing then I’m sure we’ve got a good chance of mak­ing some things hap­pen.”

Aus­tralia dom­i­nated the first day-night Bris­bane Test up un­til late on the fourth day, when signs of anx­i­ety crept in as Pak­istan edged closer to a mirac­u­lous vic­tory be­fore Shafiq was dis­missed. “I saw a lot of very ner­vous campers all of a sud­den for the first time,” Pak­istan as­sis­tant coach Steve Rixon said. “I would have thought they would have turned up think­ing, ‘We’re just go­ing to win this, it’s only go­ing to take two good balls and that’s it’. Well guess what? It wasn’t.”

‘Sore, for sure’

Pak­istan have lost their last 10 Tests in Aus­tralia and last won at the MCG in 1981 in the era of Im­ran Khan, Javed Mian­dad and Za­heer Ab­bas. The Aus­tralians are con­fi­dent crack pace pair Mitchell Starc and Josh Ha­zle­wood will back up to bowl at the show­piece event de­spite each send­ing down 56 overs in the Bris­bane heat with just a week’s re­cu­per­a­tion.

“They’ll be sore, for sure, but it de­pends on how sig­nif­i­cant those lit­tle things are and the risks as­so­ci­ated with it,” team sports medicine man­ager Alex Koun­touris said. “In gen­eral terms we think they’ll get through but we won’t know un­til we as­sess.” Zim­babwe-born Cartwright, who was re­cently in­cluded in the Chap­pell-Hadlee ODI squad to face New Zealand but did not play, has av­er­aged 44.50 across 16 first-class matches.

But his 15 first-class wick­ets have come at an undis­tin­guished 41.93, and he has only four wick­ets at 74.75 in the cur­rent Sh­effield Shield cam­paign.

The se­lec­tors’ de­sire for a bat­ting all-rounder to take a place in the top six means the in­cum­bent num­ber six, Nic Maddin­son, could face the axe af­ter his three Test in­nings of 0, 1 and 4. Team vice-cap­tain David Warner is also over­due and has not posted a Test cen­tury since his 122 against the West Indies in Syd­ney in Jan­uary for an av­er­age of 35 this year, well be­low his ca­reer av­er­age of 47.58.

Teams

Aus­tralia (from) - Matt Ren­shaw, David Warner, Us­man Khawaja, Steve Smith (capt), Peter Hand­scomb, Nic Maddin­son, Hil­ton Cartwright, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc, Josh Ha­zle­wood, Nathan Lyon, Jack­son Bird, Chadd Say­ers.

Pak­istan (from) - Azhar Ali, Sami As­lam, Babar Azam, You­nis Khan, Mis­bah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Sar­fraz Ahmed, Wa­hab Riaz, Yasir Shah, Mo­ham­mad Amir, Rahat Ali, So­hail Khan, Im­ran Khan. — AFP

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