Australia will be looking to further extend their unbeaten Test series run against Pakistan when the two-match series between the nations begins in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The Aussies haven’t lost a series to Pakistan since 1994, although they did lose the last Test match played between the two in a 1-1 drawn series in England.
Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers aren’t in the greatest form with the bat, although the number two ranked Test team in the world will still be favourites to be outright winners.
However, they will have to be wary of a Pakistan spin attack that caused a few problems in the recent ODI series in the Middle East.
Australia come into the series with a good recent record against Pakistan, winning four matches against them already this month. Having clinched the ODI series after two games, a nail-biting one-run win – set up by a Glenn Maxwell double wicket maiden – drew the curtain on limited-overs cricket for the time being.
Attentions now turn to the longer format, but a 153-run loss to Pakistan A last week suggests that the Test series could be a lot closer than the 3-0 ODI series scoreline.
Whatever confidence was built up from the one-day contests was somewhat undone by the nature of defeat in the four-day warm-up fixture.
Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers both failed in their only chance to get some time in the middle. Having not been involved in the limited-overs matches, both batsmen were dismissed cheaply in each innings of the warm-up.
The two senior players will be looked at to provide runs for Australia in the coming series.
The absence of the injured Shane Watson also opens up an interesting debate as to who will fill the current all-rounder vacancy in the side. James Faulkner could win just his second Test cap, or Glenn Maxwell just his third.
It could be done to what type of bowler Clarke and Darren Lehmann opt for that settles that debate.
Australia were decimated by spin bowling during their 4-0 whitewash defeat on their last tour of India, and they will be hoping to play the slower stuff better this time around.
However, Raza Hasan’s three wickets on the final day of the warm-up match show that the Aussies are still susceptible to losing regular wickets to spinners.
The fate of the first Test may well be down to how well Australia contend with the turning triumvirate of Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah and Mohammad Hafeez.
If Pakistan can set a solid victory total and are bowling on the fifth day, then there is every chance that they can repeat their 2010 win over the Australians at Headingley.
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