Pressure on Pakistan in Abu Dhabi decider

The tables have turned, and how! Despite not having won a Test match in their adopted home in nearly two years now, Pakistan were overwhelming favorites against Tim Paine’s new-look Australia who were playing their first Test series since the overnight changes to their leadership group. And after the visitors’ Dubai heist, the pressure is now on Pakistan to not let another series slip in UAE as the two teams prepare for the decider in Abu Dhabi.
Though there are very few individual performances that can be faulted in the Dubai draw, Pakistan was guilty of not being able to sustain the pressure they had mounted on Australia after their collapse in the first innings. Opting not to enforce the follow-on, Pakistan had thrown a 462-run challenge at Australia for an unlikely win. But even a Yasir Shah four-fer couldn’t break the resolve of the Usman Khawaja, Paine and Travis Head who did the unthinkable by actually batting out over four sessions to save the game. With their confidence at an all-time high even as a young unit, Paine and Justin Langer have already set their sights on that elusive series win in Asia.
Australia’s rearguard action in Dubai though might have swept some issues under the carpet, mostly in the batting department. The middle-order is a work in progress and the lack of contributions from Marsh brothers in both the innings would be concerning. With Paine already hinting at a batting shake-up on the eve of the game, Head’s gutsy knock of 72 in the second innings might earn him a swap with either of the two brothers as Australia seek to strengthen their middle-order.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have at least two definite changes to their eleven from Dubai. They have a like-for-like replacement in Fakhar Zaman, who has been announced to make his debut in Abu Dhabi, replacing Imam-ul-Haq, who fractures his finger while fielding on the final day of the first Test. Pacer Wahab Riaz had an off game and now has been ruled out for the second Test, meaning Bilal Asif, who bowled wicketless 37 overs after his six-for in Australia’s first-innings collapse, will retain his spot.


When: October 16-20, 10 am Local, 6 am GMT


Where: Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi.


What to expect: A grassy pitch greeted the two teams upon arrival at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, though the track has steadily changed colours, quite literally. Much like the one in Dubai, the pitch should again assist spinners. The temperatures would hover around 33 all five days of the game despite the thunderstorm forecast on the eve of the match.
Team News
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq’s fractured hand makes way for Fakhar Zaman’s Test debut at the age of 28. Riaz too has been ruled out on the eve of the game, and Shadab Khan finds himself in the 12 announced for the game.
Australia: Paine has ruled out any changes to his top-six though a shake-up in the batting order could be on the cards. There were fitness concerns regarding pace spearhead Mitchell Starc too, though he is unlikely to be rested.
What they said
“Pressure is always different in every match and obviously this is a decider. Being the home team we have to win it and we will enter the field thinking that. We will look to play positive cricket and hopefully the result will go our way.” – Azhar Ali
“It [series win in Asia] would be a massive thing for any Australian side, and for this one in particular. I touched on it last week that not many people gave us a chance over here, which is a great opportunity for us to prove people wrong and a great thing to keep driving us.” – Tim Paine
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez
Australia: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc


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