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Opinion

FLEM'S VERDICT: Bat hit crazy - No doubt if you win toss but quick-heavy attack can still work

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Expert
2nd March, 2022
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A record-breakingly quick “we will bat” will be Pat Cummins or Baba Azam’s response when they win the toss on day one of the first Test because the Rawalpindi pitch looks as flat as the losing captain’s mood will be on Friday. 

There are so many questions for the Australians about their final XI for the brilliantly named Benaud-Qadir Trophy with a Rawalpindi pitch that looks so dry and flat.

It’s difficult to judge a pitch from afar but from what we’ve seen it looks like one that won’t offer much assistance but with a rock hard pitch and a green outfield, it should generate some reverse swing for the bowlers.

There’s a little bit of cracking but will they open up? 

Nathan Lyon says we will probably play just the one spinner so if we went the three usual quicks with him, then Scott Boland looks the unlucky odd man out. 

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I reckon we could still win the Test if we go with a quick-heavy balance.

It wouldn’t surprise me also if they did go with a traditional attack and play both Starc and Hazlewood with Cummins, then have Green to chime in with Lyon to bowl the “lion’s share” of the spin and you get a few extra overs of leggies out of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith.

Back your three best bowlers and hope they can get reverse swing. That’s going with experience and it’s worked before.

I played two Tests at Rawalpindi and it just didn’t break up. There’ll be spin but it won’t be uneven bounce when it turns and that’s why wrist-spinners can be more potent.

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And the footprints tha Starc and Shaheen Shah Afridi provide as lefties, will be really important for the likes of Nathan Lyon.

The pitches are like the really flat Australian pitches, like what you used to get before drop-ins at the Adelaide Oval on day two and day three.  

Accuracy and bounce are crucial – you’ll get swing with the new ball and then it will reverse. I think we’ve got the quicks to be well suited to the conditions.

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I think if we do get a pitch that will break up and spin in Karachi or Lahore they should play two spinners and that means two quicks out of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Scott Boland miss out. That’s insane!

I reckon it’ll come down to Starc and Hazlewood and with his reverse swing abilities, the leftie will probably get the spot. It will all come down to the balance of the team.

And if they play Starc as a strike bowler, I’d look to use Ashton Agar ahead of Mitchell Swepson as the second spinner because he’s got more control and can hold up an end for long spells more than the leggie.

If they think they should attack Pakistan with spin, then give Swepson his first baggy green cap but then Hazlewood should be chosen to partner Pat Cummins for the new ball because with our young all-rounder, Cameron Green, as the third seam option. 

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It’s a bit of yin and yang – if Starc is attacking, he could leak runs so Agar would be better to have in the team but if Swepson gets a start, Hazlewood is so reliable and never expensive. 

In the two tours I played there, Shane Warne dominated in 1994 and Stuart MacGill in ‘98 and if the pitches aren’t going to crumble like they do in India and Bangladesh, do you need the over-spin of a wrist-spinner so that brings Swepson into the frame.

Agar is still a really good option even though he normally plays limited overs cricket for Australia – he turns it away from the right-handers.

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Swepson’s leg spin would be more destructive given what Warne and MacGill did.

Pakistan’s fast bowling is down – Harris Rauf is out with COVID, Hasan Ali is injured. 

Shaheen, we know he is an absolute gun, a tall left-armer who’s going to take hundreds of Test wickets. He was impressive in the tour of Australia, he is a real threat.

And he is following the tradition of Pakistani pacemen with flowing locks like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Shoaib Akhtar.

But who will they partner him with as their second seamer? Naseem Shah, the young paceman who debuted here in Australia a couple of years ago, could be the best option.

I’d be very surprised if they didn’t just unearth a quick who bowls at 150km/h that we’ve never heard of but to me their fast bowling looks like their weakness.

Sajid Khan will bring his off spin and left-armer Nauman Ali will probably be the other spinner with their usual leggie, Yasir Shah, in the squad but likely to remain in the reserves with seamer Mohammad Abbas.

Their batting is pretty strong. Babar Azam is as good as any batter there is in the world. And then they’ve got Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan can play plenty of shots.

I’m looking forward to the series, it should be an exciting one because there’s so many questions on both sides.But no question to what the captain will do if they win the toss: “Bat !!!”

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