Australia are likely to play two spinners as they go in search of a win in Saturday’s second Test in Karachi after Pakistan batted their seamers into the ground in the draw at Rawalpindi.
The historic occasion — Australia‘s first Test in Pakistan since 1998 — was marred by a pitch described as “dead” by vice-captain Steve Smith as Pakistan piled up 728 runs for the loss of just four wickets, and one of those was a run out.
Openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique both made maiden Test hundreds — Imam scoring one in each innings — while senior batsman Azhar Ali also passed three figures during five attritional days.
The series now moves to Karachi’s National Stadium, a favourite hunting ground for Pakistan, who have won 23 of the 43 Tests they have played there while losing only twice.
Australia have never won in Karachi in eight attempts, losing five and drawing three.
With conditions sultry, the pitch is likely to help the slow bowlers, prompting Australia to rest at least one of their famed pace trio of captain Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
‘Still feeling fresh’
“From our intel in Karachi and Lahore, a second spinner is probably the way to go but we’ll have a look,” said Cummins, hinting that leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, 28, could make his Test debut alongside veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
“Just about everyone got into the series,” said Cummins, whose side made 459 in their only innings in Rawalpindi without anyone making a century.
“All the batters got some runs. We’re still feeling relatively fresh going into the game.”
Pace bowler Hasan Ali, who missed the first Test through injury, is likely to replace Naseem Shah for the hosts.
But Faheem Ashraf, who missed the first Test through injury, has now been sidelined with Covid.
Left-arm spinner Nauman Ali, who took a career best 6-107 in Rawalpindi, was Pakistan’s match-winner in Karachi last year on debut against South Africa with seven wickets.
“The way our batters played and how Nauman bowled in difficult conditions was good,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam of his side’s performance in the first Test of the three-match series.
“There were some positives to take for us. We have some of our fast bowlers available for the second Test so we should be stronger in that department.”
Ramiz Raja, the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, defended the flat pitch in Rawalpindi.
“I understand the frustration of the fans but there is a lot of cricket still remaining to be played,” said Raja.
“Just for the heck of it, we can’t prepare a fast pitch or a bouncy pitch and put the game in Australia’s lap.”
The third and final Test takes place in Lahore from March 21-25.
Pakistan (from): Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Hasan Ali, Zahid Mahmood, Naseem Shah
Australia (from): Pat Cummins (capt), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Mark Steketee, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Umpires: Aleem Dar (PAK) and Ahsan Raza (PAK)
TV umpire: Rashid Riaz (PAK)
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (SRI)