Following frank admissions the “dead” pitch at Rawalpindi was purpose-made to blunt the threat of Australia’s pace bowlers in the first Test, opener David Warner has pointed out a repeat in Karachi will also effectively nullify Pakistan’s exciting quicks.
The track for the series opener yielded just 14 wickets across five soporific days, prompting Australia batter Steve Smith to label it “a pretty benign, dead wicket” and Pakistan Cricket Board chair Ramiz Raja to concede it was “not a good advertisement” for Test cricket.
However, Ramiz also acknowledged the pitch was prepared to better suit Pakistan’s strengths of batters practiced in combating low bounce and bowlers generating reverse swing rather than seam movement in order to reduce the risk of them slipping 0-1 down in the three-match series.
Pakistan’s openers duly put together century stands in both innings at Rawalpindi, but the lack of assistance to quicks saw Pakistan’s young pace pair Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah return combined match figures of 3-177 in Australia’s only batting innings.
And only one of those wickets – Marnus Labuschagne, who was caught at slip off Shaheen having scored 90 – was a batter in the visitors’ top six.
Asked today how he evaluated his battle against Shaheen and Naseem during the almost three hours he spent at the crease in Rawalpindi, Warner indicated a replica of the surface rolled out for the first Test would also minimize the threat to Australia’s specialist batters.
“I don’t think it’s too difficult to face the faster bowlers on a wicket like that,” Warner said prior to Australia’s first training session at Karachi’s National Stadium, having arrived in the port city yesterday.
“There’s no pace, there’s no bounce.
“If reverse swing comes into play, then it might be a little bit different.
“But it’s not offering anything at all except perhaps a sore back for the fast bowlers, and sore feet.
“From a batting point of view against fast bowlers, it’s not really the challenge (except) maybe the first six balls when the ball’s brand new.”
Warner also echoed the assessment of Australia’s principal spinner Nathan Lyon, who remarked after the touring team’s initial training session at Rawalpindi last week that the practice pitches adjacent to the Test strip offered noticeable turn.
However, once the Test began on Friday it became immediately obvious that trait was absent from the center wicket and the first three days of the match yielded just six wickets, one of which was a run-out.
Warner admitted “batsman error” was a key factor in Australia being bowled out for 459 while Pakistan piled on 4-728 across their two innings, but while noting the lifeless surface was a blessing for top-order batters he added his hope the Karachi pitch will provide more of a challenge.
“From a batsman’s point of view, you can roll out the same one from (Rawalpindi) and hopefully I don’t get out,” he said when asked what he was expecting for the next Test which starts on Saturday.
“But that’s not we want from a cricketing point of view.
“You want something to break up, to be something there for the spinners.
“You saw Nathan Lyon, when he was hitting that rough, it wasn’t doing anything.
“It was pretty much going straight on, slow off the wicket.
“There wasn’t any of that variable bounce which you generally see on worn wickets.
“We don’t know what we’re expecting here in Karachi until we rock up and see the wicket but I just want a game where you can create 20 chances.
“Something that’s going to be exciting and entertaining for the crowd.”
Having traveled from Islamabad yesterday, Australia will conduct their main pre-Test training session this afternoon (Pakistan time) at a venue where they’ve never won in their previous eight attempts dating back to 1956.
In recent Tests at the National Stadium, spin has proved dominant with Pakistan pair Nauman Ali (who claimed career-best 6-107 in Rawalpindi) and Yasir Shah sharing 14 wickets between them while South Africa’s Keshav Maharaj took four in the most recent match played in January last year.
The fact all three of those bowlers – left-arm orthodox duo Nauman and Maharaj, and leg spinner Yasir – spin the ball away from right-handed batters has heightened speculation Australia will name uncapped leggie Mitchell Swepson to partner Lyon in the second Test.
However, Warner said no firm thoughts would be formed by tour selectors George Bailey (chair) and Andrew McDonald (interim coach) in consultation with fellow panel member Tony Dodemaide and skipper Pat Cummins until closer scrutiny of the Karachi surface had been conducted.
“We’ve not yet seen what the wicket is like here in Karachi, so I’m sure they’ll assess that and then make their decisions based on what they see,” Warner said
“At the end of the day the (Rawalpindi) curators did the best they could do, and we just have to move on from that wicket and see what’s produced in Karachi.”
Qantas Tour of Pakistan 2022
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vc), Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Zahid Mahmood.
Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc , Mark Steketee, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner. On standby: Sean Abbott, Brendan Doggett, Nic Maddinson, Matthew Renshaw
First Test: Match drawn
March 12-16: Second Test, Karachi
March 21-25: Third Test, Lahore
Australia ODI and T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa
March 29: First ODI, Rawalpindi
March 31: Second ODI, Rawalpindi
April 2: Third ODI, Rawalpindi
April 5: Only T20I, Rawalpindi
All matches to be broadcast in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports