Well, we head to Adelaide for the 2nd test, and it’s a Day/Night test which means lights, pink balls and being able to watch the game during prime time. I’ve really enjoyed the Day/Night tests over the last few summers, and Adelaide have done an incredible job hosting them. The curator has always left on a bit more grass on the wicket to avoid the pink ball getting too scuffed up and it’s made for some great cricket.
Australia go into the game after a strong Innings and 5 run win at the Gabba in the 1st test. They have batsman and bowlers in form and would feel confidant of performing well again, and it’s expected they’ll go in unchanged. Pakistan were well down in Brisbane and will be hoping to atone here. Imran Khan is likely to be dropped, with Mohammad Abbas being his replacement, and it’s a good thing too as the last time he played against Australia, Abbas took 17 wickets and caused us all sorts of trouble. It’s incredible he wasn’t played at the Gabba but I guess their selectors thought they knew best. It will be interesting if young Naseem Shah gets another crack at it, as whilst he was impressive, he didn’t bowl too much on the second day of batting by the Aussies (day 3) so there may be doubts over his ability to sustain it at test level at this stage of his development.
Sadly though, I think bad weather in South Australia could annoy us all, with rain scheduled for today, Sunday and Monday, but here’s hoping it stays away.
So, what are the big questions leading in to the test?
1: Can Pakistan take 20 wickets to win the game?
This is the big question, and based on their bowling line up last game, it’s a huge doubt. Shah looked good but couldn’t back it up on day 2 of bowling whilst Imran Khan was poor overall. Khan is almost certain to lose his place, possibly Shah too. Shaheen Afridi though looks a quality young quick, whilst Yasir Shah is a quality leggie who took 4 wickets in the 1st test, and with Mohammed Abbas coming back, they have an attack that could trouble the Aussies in the right conditions. Whilst we looked dominant in the 1st test, I honestly think we are only a decent swing bowling effort away from collapse and under lights this could certainly happen.
2: Should we play 4 quicks?
This question gets trotted out each summer and each time it sounds appealing in theory………but so does communism. Let’s look at it, over rates are terrible already so playing 4 quicks would make it worse, there is always one bowler that is under-bowled when you play 4 quicks and finally, Nathan Lyon is a bloody good spinner!!!
Shane Warne has always said that if it seams, it spins, so if there is grass on the wicket then why drop a bloke that spins it well, gets good bounce and has been a crucial part of the our bowling attack for the last few years. You don’t drop the GOAT!!!
3: Head under pressure?
Pretty much all batsman filled their boots at the Gabba, barring 2, Smith (4) and Head (24). Head has a test average of 41.8 after 13 matches (23 innings), which is solid and he’s got one hundred and six 50s to his name to date. However, he’s also been out for 20 or less 10 times out of those 23 innings, which shows he’s either feast or famine.
He’s the one real question mark right now in the batting order and you feel he needs runs here to avoid further scrutiny. Now I personally would give him the summer and back him in, but further failures will bring the heat, especially if guys like Maddinson, Pucovski and Bancroft make runs.
4: Can the Pakistan batting stand up and make a big score?
When Pakistan were 0-75 in the first test, they were ticking off all the things you need to do against the Aussies at the Gabba. Win the toss and bat -Tick. Get through to lunch without much damage – Tick. Capitalise after lunch in the improving conditions…..No tick.
Pakistan was 0-75 in the first innings in the 1st test. They were then 4-78, then 5-95. All that good work gone. In the 2nd innings, they were again 5-94 before the fightback featuring Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. There is talent there. Shan Masood made a couple of decent starts, Asad Shafiq made 76 in the first innings, Babar Azam made an impressive 104 in the second, whilst Rizwan made a fighting 37 to stop the rot in the 1st innings, then supported Azam in making 95 in the 2nd.
This Australian team are great front runners, so if you can get them on the back foot early then you can put them under pressure. Making 240 isn’t doing this. Nor is trying to play sub-continent shots on Australian decks. Here’s hoping they have learnt from the Gabba and can at least put the Aussies under pressure.
5: Is there a nicer looking ground than Adelaide?
As a Victorian, I love the MCG. It’s a fearsome cauldron for visiting teams, especially on a packed Boxing day. The SCG has history and retains that smaller more traditional cricket ground look, the Gabba has the colourful seats whilst Optus Stadium in Perth just looks new and state of the art.
Adelaide though has that village park feel, with the trees and the hill and the old scoreboard. Regularly produces good games and with it now being the pink ball venue it’s taken on further lustre each season. Short boundaries square of the wicket promote back foot shots and make batsman earn their runs on the drive. It’s just a shame the place is in South Australia!