Australia’s Test team against Pakistan will be their weakest in 25 years

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By Ronan O'Connell, Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Australia will field arguably their weakest Test line-up of the past 25 years against Pakistan in October, missing four of their six world-class players.

    Already greatly weakened by the one-year bans handed to their two best batsmen, Steve Smith and David Warner, Australia have now lost gun quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, leaving them in an awfully vulnerable state.

    Australia at full strength are only a middling Test team and now they’ve been left with only two world-class Test cricketers in left arm quick Mitchell Starc and off-spinner Nathan Lyon.

    The remainder of their team to play the two Tests in Pakistan will be made up of rookies and a handful of veterans like 35-year-old Shaun Marsh, 31-year-old Usman Khawaja and 33-year-old Tim Paine. That trio will be handed huge responsibility in this series, but there is reason to doubt their ability to carry that load.

    Marsh, at 35 years old, has a fantastic Test record in Sri Lanka but was an abject failure in his most recent series in Asia, averaging 19 across four Tests in India last year. The left-hander laboured badly against India’s tweakers and was again troubled by spin in Australia’s most recent Test series against South Africa, with Keshav Maharaj dismissing him three times.

    Khawaja, meanwhile, has a famously awful Test record away from home, averaging just 25 from his 15 Tests outside Australia, and his returns are even worse in Asia where he’s averaged just 14 from five Tests. Then there’s Paine, who has not played a first-class match in Asia since eight years ago when he played the third and fourth Tests of his career in India.

    Australia's Usman Khawaja gestures to the crowd after scoring his 150 runs.

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    Judging from Australia’s last Test tour against Pakistan four years ago, this veteran trio will be buffeted by spin across the upcoming two Tests. Back then, the Aussies were riding high after a 5-0 Ashes win and a 2-1 series win over a star-studded Proteas team in South Africa.

    This time they’ll limp into the series missing four star players and fresh off the most tumultuous period in the modern era of Australian cricket.

    Australia will also have a batting line-up which pales in comparison to the one which was humiliated by Pakistan in 2014. On that disastrous tour, which saw Australia handed consecutive Test hammerings, Australia had not just Smith and Warner, but also the masterful play of spinner Michael Clarke and consistent veteran Chris Rogers.

    Yet still they fell in a heap against Pakistan’s spinners, with leggie Yasir Shah and left arm finger spinner Zulfiqar Babar combining to take 26 wickets at 22. This October, the pitches are expected to be similarly dry and spin-friendly and Pakistan will surely play two spinners against an Australian side renowned for its frailty against slow bowling.

    While Australia competed well in India last year, their batting relied enormously on the genius of Smith, who put together one of the great series by a visiting batsman in India, amassing 499 runs at 71, including three tons.

    Warner, meanwhile, was Australia’s best batsman on the last tour against Pakistan, averaging 60. It is very hard to see how Australia can put up even reasonable totals against Pakistan’s spinners without that duo.

    Particularly when none of their three most experienced members of the top seven in Marsh, Khawaja and Paine have any recent successes against spin.

    On the bowling front, Australia will greatly miss Cummins, who was outstanding in his Tests in Asia last year. The 25-year-old showed a very rare ability to wring life out of slow Asian pitches and was easily Australia’s best quick across the back-to-back series in India and Bangladesh.

    With Hazlewood also ruled out of the Pakistan series through injury, Australia have no attractive pace option to pair with Starc. The likes of Jackson Bird and Chadd Sayers would seem likely to be innocuous on such lifeless pitches, while alternatives such as Jyhe Richardson and Chris Tremain would be making their Test debuts.

    Australia’s chances of taking 20 wickets per Test will rest on the backs of Lyon and Starc, both of whom have had several moments of success in Asian conditions. With the bat, however, Australia have not one player who I can be confident will prosper in this series.

    Australia will field a Test line-up which will be as weak as any I’ve seen in the past 25 years.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (50)

    • August 11th 2018 @ 6:39am
      Max danger said | August 11th 2018 @ 6:39am | ! Report

      It’s ok, people only care about the Ashes these days

      • August 11th 2018 @ 10:25am
        Don Freo said | August 11th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

        Which people?

        Cricjet fans are hanging out for the next Aussie test series. You’re probably one of those popsicle fans.

        • August 11th 2018 @ 12:12pm
          Max Danger said | August 11th 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

          there will be little media coverage, opinion pieces and numbers of viewers of this series. most people wont even know its on. hoe you enjoy it

          • August 11th 2018 @ 2:18pm
            Don Freo said | August 11th 2018 @ 2:18pm | ! Report

            Only populist media that choose to engage only when there is a scandal won’t be interested. We know The Roar, Cricket Australia, Cricinfo, SportFM, SEN, Fox…will all engage.

            Try it, you’ll like it.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 7:25am
      Cam Mason said | August 11th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      With crisis comes opportunity

      • Columnist

        August 11th 2018 @ 7:39am
        Ronan O'Connell said | August 11th 2018 @ 7:39am | ! Report

        Absolutely Cam the absence of the 4 big guns offers a golden chance for guys like Khawaja, Handscomb, Maxwell and perhaps Tremain too.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 8:35am
      Paul said | August 11th 2018 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      I’m obviously interested to see what team the selectors choose but equally keen to see what Langer does with it. Yes it will be a weak Test for sure, but guys like Finch or Head might come into their own.

      Langer needs to take control, instill confidence and make sure these guys are ready to play TEST cricket. I don’t like seeing Australia lose but if we do but play real Test cricket, ie don’t throw away wickets, bowl tight in partnerships, etc, that has to be a positive moving towards the Test summer.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 9:07am
      Dom said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Last 25 years? This is Australia’s worst test side since the doldrums of the 1980s – and that’s even with Smith, Warner and Co. I’ve long said as much and to be honest I haven’t seen anything to sway me from that belief – including the Ashes win against a very poor England side.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 10:31am
      Don Freo said | August 11th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

      I’m hanging out to see Joel Paris play a whole season without injury. His name will be on everyone’s lips if he does. His control and his combination of swing, cut and bounce will have him rise to the top. He wields the willow effectively too…both defensively and with strokeplay.

      Tremain is no dud with the ball either. Agar won’t let us down when he gets a gig. The bowling will be fine. The batting might hang on Matty Renshaw.

      • August 11th 2018 @ 11:20am
        Dom said | August 11th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        I was at an Australia Sports Analytics Conference in Melbourne yesterday and at it, CA gave a presentation on scheduling. They stated that the reason for the shift to the specific Domestic ODI window was to help restrict injuries. Just proves these clowns are blindly throwing darts at a dartboard – the number of injured quicks at the moment just proves these guys have no idea!

        • August 11th 2018 @ 11:46am
          Don Freo said | August 11th 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

          The quicks are not being injured by workload. None of the injured bowlers have played enough sustained cricket for workload to be the problem.

          • August 11th 2018 @ 7:27pm
            Dom said | August 11th 2018 @ 7:27pm | ! Report

            Exactly Don. The issue is they aren’t bowling enough. They don’t produce enough workload in their junior systems because of all the ridiculous restrictions and then are wrapped in cotton wool once they reach the pointy end of the pathway. The brains trust will tell you it’s all about too much bowling whereas the reality (irony) is that because they don’t bowl enough and allow their bodies to become match hardened, they become injured. The scientists are just creating jobs for themselves!

      • August 14th 2018 @ 9:17am
        Larry1950 said | August 14th 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        I hope they pick Billy Stanlake for this series, even if he doesn’t play all tests. His height and bounce will trouble any batsman & the experience will do him the world of good. Pick a backup worker paceman to do the hack bowling, give Billy stints of 6-8 overs and get him into test cricket. I also reckon we’ll see Renshaw cement his spot as a future leader in the side with the experience gained in England.

    • August 11th 2018 @ 11:03am
      Timmuh said | August 11th 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      The forgotten one in all this is James Pattinson. When fit he is perhaps the best equipped of the Australian quicks in low, slow conditions. He, also, remains unavailable. And he has to show some form to force his way back in. He won’t be a real chance until 2019 – if he gets through the latter half of the Shield season and does so with a decent return.

      The batting just looks weak, in any conditions.
      I’ve seen a few preferred squads on here and they all look terrible. Yet, I can’t think of anyone better. At first glance, Australia will be lucky to make 300 across a match in the UAE.
      Maxwell has the ability, but probably still not the head. Its a short series though, so one innings that comes off might be enough.
      Handsomb seems doubtful but might be one to find a way. He may at least be able to adapt his defence. He did get a decent average in Bangladesh, but mostly from one innings despite arguably four starts (is 15 a “start”?). It will be harder in the UAE.

      • August 11th 2018 @ 12:32pm
        BurgyGreen said | August 11th 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        In my opinion a fit Pattinson is our best Test bowler. To be honest I think it’s unlikely we’ll see much more of him at Test level, sadly.

      • Columnist

        August 11th 2018 @ 4:46pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | August 11th 2018 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

        Unfortunately at this stage it looks like Pattinson is lost to Test cricket.

        He’s only managed 4 Tests in the past 5 years and now he’s 28 years old.

        As much as I hate to say it he’s better off ditching red ball cricket and trying to build a decent short form career.

        • August 11th 2018 @ 7:45pm
          Dom said | August 11th 2018 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

          Ronan, then I’d say that should be the end of his international career because he is a very ordinary limited overs bowler. He’s a red ball specialist.

          • Columnist

            August 11th 2018 @ 10:48pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | August 11th 2018 @ 10:48pm | ! Report

            You could be right but I think a 28-year-old with Pattinson’s high level of all-round talent could improve massively if he just focused on the shorter formats.

            The shorter formats have always been a clear distant priority for Pattinson, who has always talked about focusing on his Test career.

            • Roar Guru

              August 13th 2018 @ 10:32am
              Matt H said | August 13th 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

              It’s a long shot, but maybe he should be looking at forging a second career as a batsman. He has the technique, but of course his focus has always been bowling. And if his body allows he might be able to roll his arm over as a support bowler in the Shane Watson mould.

        • August 12th 2018 @ 9:28am
          Timmuh said | August 12th 2018 @ 9:28am | ! Report

          I fear you may well be correct, but hope he can still get a couple of years in. If all he can do without too much risk is the T20 circus, fair enough, but such a waste.

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