Australia v Pakistan: T20 & Test Series Previews

As the cricket continues this summer, Australia v Pakistan in a T20 and Test Series leading into December. The last series between these two was a Test Series last year in Dubai where the hosts prevailed in a tight contest.

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After a thumping victory in the first test at Brisbane, Australia will be looking to close out the series with another win over Pakistan in the second test at the Adelaide Oval, starting on Friday.

Australia

The Aussies asserted their authority over the visitors early at the Gabba and never relinquished control, ultimately winning by an innings and five runs. Having lost the toss and been asked to field first the hosts remained patient throughout an opening stand of 75.

Wickets started to tumble at regular intervals and Pakistan were dismissed for a sub-standard 240 at the end of day one with left-arm quick Mitchell Starc (4/52 off 18.2 overs) enjoying his return to the starting XI.

The Australians then put their opponents to the sword with the bat, starting with an opening partnership of 222 which only ended when Joe Burns (97) was knocked over agonisingly short of a fifth test century.

Back on home soil Burns’ opening partner David Warner went on with it though, posting 154 and combining in a 129-run stand with first drop Marnus Labuschagne who exceeded both teammates with an exceptional 185, maintaining his form from the Ashes series whilst notching up his first test ton.

Middle-order tyro Matthew Wade joined in with 60 as Australia racked up an impressive 580, despite talisman Steve Smith only contributing a paltry four. When Pakistan slumped to 3/25 in their second innings they seemed long odds to make Australia bat again, though they did get close before being eventually dismissed for 335 as Josh Hazlewood (4/63 off 21 overs) and Starc (3/73 off 16.2 overs) did the bulk of the damage.

The home side is unlikely to make any changes to their XI in Adelaide with Starc’s impressive return in Brisbane enough to keep out the likes of James Pattinson and Michael Neser.


Pakistan

There was genuine hope at lunch on day one for Pakistan when openers Shan Masood (27) and Azhar Ali (39) went in undefeated, however their dismissals early in the second session triggered a remarkable collapse of 4/3 and the visitors were only able to scramble to their mediocre first innings scores thanks to a typically classy 76 from Asad Shafiq.

If there were at least some promising glimpses from the batting, the same could not be said of their bowling with the Aussies scoring runs at will without taking much risk. Veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah toiled away for the unflattering figures of 4/205 off 48.4 overs, while 16-year-old sensation Naseem Shah (1/68 off 20 overs) bowled with impressive pace but could make little impression as the decision to leave out spearhead Mohammad Abbas clearly backfired.

After struggling against the new ball, Pakistan’s second innings provided their most encouraging passage of the match, starting with Masood who dug in for a stoic 42, before a wonderful partnership of 132 between the talented Babar Azam who stroked a magnificent 104, and ‘keeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan who made a punchy 95 in just his second test.

Yasir’s tireless effort with the ball was backed up with a fighting 42 with the bat, however it was not enough to avoid an innings defeat. It seems certain that Abbas will be recalled for this day-night test with Imran Khan (1/73 off 24 overs) most likely to make way, while top-order batsman Imam-ul-Haq will also be hoping to force his way back in with both Haris Sohail (1 and 8) and Iftikhar Ahmed (7 and 0) under pressure.


Adelaide Oval

This is the fourth day-night Test at the Adelaide Oval with Australia winning the previous three. Conditions for batting seem to have got progressively easier over the years with the number of runs in each match increasing chronologically, though no side has made more than 250 in their second innings.

Mitchell Starc will enter this match with plenty of confidence, not just owing to his good form, but also his test average of 19.18 at this ground.


Key Stats

  • Australia have now won their last 13 tests at home against Pakistan.
  • Australia have won five of their past six tests at the Adelaide Oval, including all three day-night tests.
  • Pakistan have lost their last five tests away from home.
  • Against Australia Mohammad Abbas has taken 17 wickets at an average of 10.58.
  • Steve Smith has top-scored in the first innings in six of his past 13 tests.
  • Steve Smith is averaging 71.00 from his last four tests at the Adelaide Oval.

The Verdict

As you’d expect Australia are warm favourites to make it 2-0 with a Pakistan win and a draw considered similarly unlikely.

Australia were dominant and comfortable at the Gabba and they come into this match at another venue where they hold a strong recent record so there’s plenty of cause for confidence with regards to the hosts.

However, their price is incredibly skinny and given the likely inclusion of Abbas along with some encouraging signs with the bat from Pakistan I feel it would be irresponsible to be diving into the Aussies at such short odds.

Having said that we cannot have the requisite belief in the visitors to be siding with them as for all the positives they can take out of Brisbane, they still succumbed by an innings and looked a long way from being competitive.

Once they got in their batsmen looked the part, however, there were seven instances of their top six being dismissed in single figures and batting conditions are unlikely to be more favourable in Adelaide, whilst their bowlers all struggled for penetration.

That propensity to lose wickets in clumps, combined with the home side’s energetic run rate is enough to put us off the draw at the price, though some potential inclement weather could open up some opportunities for favourable trades but for now we’ll leave the match odds to one side.

There was very little that was surprising about how the first test played out with the exception of Steve Smith’s first single-figure score since March 2018. Smith is not in the habit of missing out much having previously scored an incredible 774 runs at an average of 110.57 in his prior four tests.

In Australia’s first innings of the match, Smith has top-scored in six of his past 13 tests, including four of his last five. Whilst the market is generally well aware of the former captain’s exploits, the success of Australia’s top three at the Gabba combined with conditions that should make batting more difficult at the top of the order makes Smith an attractive price here.


Betting Strategy

 BACK – Steve Smith Top Australia First Innings Batsman at 2.75 or bigger for 1 unit.

Having dominated the early season T20 Internationals, Australia will now turn their attention to the test arena where they begin with the first of a two match series against Pakistan at the Gabba, starting on Thursday.

Australia

Having retained the Ashes in England the Aussies have stuck solid with the majority of the squad who drew the series in the Old Dart.

However the revolving door at the top of the order has continued with Joe Burns recalled for his sixth stint in the national side at the expense of Marcus Harris, although Cameron Bancroft, named ostensibly as a reserve batsman, could also push for that opening spot alongside David Warner.

Middle-order stroke-maker Travis Head has also been brought back into the XI in place of injured all-rounder Mitchell Marsh, while there is no room for veteran quick Peter Siddle with Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Michael Neser left to scrap for the final fast bowling position.

As always the batting will rely heavily on Steve Smith, although the hosts will be hopeful that Warner can recapture former glories back on home soil, while there is also plenty of optimism surrounding newly established first drop Marnus Labuschagne who enjoyed a consistent Ashes campaign.

Undoubtedly Australia’s biggest weapon is their bowling attack with pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood among the best in the world in their craft, while indefatigable off-spinner Nathan Lyon starts yet another summer as a key figure.

The man most under pressure in the Australian side is captain Tim Paine with recent runs at a shortage on top of some questionable strategic decisions in the UK, all of which is heightened by Smith’s looming leadership availability.


Pakistan

Pakistan themselves have changed their skipper for this tour with captain skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed dropped after a poor run of form, replaced by top order batsman Azhar Ali who has previously led his side in one test and 31 ODIs.

However Sarfaraz is not the only casualty of a 3-0 series whitewash reverse against South Africa with opening batsman Fakhar Zaman, leg-spinner Shadab Khan, bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf and medium-pacer Hasan Ali all omitted, while talented left-arm quick Mohammad Amir has taken the decision to retire from test cricket.

In choosing their replacements the Pakistani selectors have focussed on either hardened experience or prodigious youth with six players included, none of which are aged between 20 and 28.

Stoic opener Abid Ali and flashy middle-order batsman Iftikhar Ahmed are amongst the older brigade to get a call up, as is all-rounder Kashif Bhatti and pace bowler Imran Khan, who impressed in a warm-up fixture against Australia A, capturing 5/32.

Another player who put his name forward in that match was 16-year-old quick Naseem Shah who caught the eye with a spell of express pace bowling. Naseem is joined in the squad by 19-year-old paceman Muhammad Musa, while another 19-year-old in Shaheen Afridi seems set to retain his place in the XI after playing two tests in South Africa.

Australia’s chief destroyer in the UAE Mohammad Abbas will lead the attack, while veteran leg-spinner Yasir Shah will be asked to get through plenty of overs. With the bat captain Azhar will call on the likes of Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam, both of who have experience playing in Australia.


The Gabba

Australia’s record at the Gabba is well documented with their unbeaten run at the venue in this format now stretching to 31 years. Encouragingly for Pakistan the last time they played at this ground they fell just 39 runs short of pulling off a famous heist, scoring 450 in the fourth innings before succumbing, however despite a lack of deterioration in that pitch draws have been rare in Brisbane with just two in the past 15 tests here.


Key Stats

  • Australia are unbeaten in their last 30 tests at the Gabba.
  • Australia have had at least one draw in three of their past four test series’.
  • Pakistan have scored 300 or more in the first innings in eight of their past 14 tests when batting first.
  • However Pakistan have drawn only one of their past 30 tests.
  • There have been only two draws in the past 15 tests at the Gabba.

The Verdict

Back on home soil Australia are short favourites to maintain their Gabba dominance with a Pakistan victory considered more likely than the draw amongst the two much less fancied options.

Although they have an incredible record in Brisbane, it takes quite a leap of faith to side with the hosts at such skinny odds when you consider that they have won only one of their past five test series’.

Admittedly that record is impacted by the absence of Smith and Warner, with a heavy reliance placed on the former during the Ashes, though who could back against him being even more prolific on flatter pitches against arguably weaker bowling?

The Aussies’ bowling attack is also one you don’t wish to oppose however there have been a few notable occasions, namely Headingley in August, Sydney last summer and in the reverse fixture three years ago, where they have struggled for penetration.

However, if the Australian attack does deliver a below-par performance, does Pakistan have the batsmen to take advantage?

There were some promising signs against Australia A with Shafiq, Babar, Iftikhar and opener Shan Masood all registering significant scores against Australia’s second-string attack on a pacey Perth pitch and even in South Africa the discarded Fakhar was the only batsman who looked truly out of his depth.

In fact, it was notable that the majority of causalities from that South African tour were bowlers, which hints at an attack which will struggle to impose itself, even against an unsettled batting line-up.

That leaves us with the draw which does appeal at such a large price. There has been at least one draw in three of Australia’s past four test series’ and while there is a dearth of stalemates from Pakistan’s recent test results we can envisage a couple of scenarios in which the draw trades shorter.

Both involve whoever bats first (and possibly second) to go big which takes a bit of gumption when it involves Pakistan on foreign soil but if they do manage to dig in at the crease then that will result in the draw price narrowing in the most dramatic fashion.

So with that in mind, my first step will be to back the draw, however given the visitors’ lack of reliability and the high proportion of results at the venue I will look to trade out and lock in some profit.


Betting Strategy

 BACK to LAY – The Draw at 8.80 or bigger for 1 unit (trade out at 4.25 or better).

After going down in Canberra on Tuesday, Pakistan will hope to salvage the series in the third and final T20I against Australia at Perth Stadium on Friday.

The Aussies took a 1-0 series lead in the nation’s capital with an ultimately comfortable seven-wicket win.

Having lost the toss and been asked to field first, the wily spin of Ashton Agar (2/23 off four overs) strangled Pakistan through the middle of their innings, though they were able to accelerate late and reach 6/150 thanks to an errant display from seamer Kane Richardson (1/51 off four overs).

In-form opener David Warner got the chase off to a fast start with a quick-fire 20 off 11 balls, before Steve Smith played arguably his best ever innings in the T20 format, remaining unbeaten on 80 off just 51 deliveries to guide the hosts home in the penultimate over.

Pakistan’s top and middle-order again largely struggled, however captain Babar Azam held things together with a supreme 50 off 38 balls, before Iftikhar Ahmed provided the pyrotechnics with a stunning 62 not out off 34 balls which elevated the visitors to a competitive total.

However, their bowlers had no answer for Smith with Wahab Riaz (0/33 off three overs) coming in for plenty of punishment, although fellow left-arm quick Mohammad Irfan recorded impressive figures of 1/27 off his four overs.

It’s hard to have any faith in Pakistan at present, though the absence of Pat Cummins (rested) is enough to put us off the short price about the home side so instead we’ll focus our attention on the powerplay period where the Aussies appear to hold a distinct advantage.

Key Stats

  • Australia has now won their last six T20Is.
  • Australia has outscored its opponents in the first six overs in four of their past five T20Is.
  • Pakistan’s opponents have outscored them in the first six overs in their past seven T20Is.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia Highest 6 Over Total at 1.40 or bigger for 2 units.

After rain saved Pakistan in Sydney on Sunday, Australia will be hoping to convert their hot form and dominance into a victory in the second T20I at Manuka Oval on Tuesday.

After winning the toss and electing to field first, the Aussies quickly had Pakistan on the back foot, reducing them to 2/10 before the visitors eventually made their way to 5/107 in 15 overs with Kane Richardson claiming 2/16 off three overs.

Due to DLS implications the hosts’ target was stretched to 119 from 15 overs, however they got off to a storming start with captain Aaron Finch hitting a maniacal 37 off just 16 deliveries to propel the Australians to 0/41 off 3.1 overs before the showers returned and rendered the match a no result despite Australia being well ahead of the par score.

No changes are expected to an Aussie XI which seems relatively settled after their strong performance against Sri Lanka.

There’s no doubt this was a great escape for Pakistan but at least they didn’t roll over, with captain Babar Azam leading the recovery with the bat with a typically classy 59 off 38 balls.

Of more concern will be the away side’s indulgence with the ball, including lofty left-arm quick Mohammad Irfan who leaked an alarming 31 off his two overs despite impressing in a warm-up fixture prior to this series.

There’s not a huge deal we can take out of the truncated series opener, however, whilst it remains unclear as to whether we can trust Pakistan at their price, there appears more certainty that we can trust their skipper who has flourished across a wide variety of conditions in this format in recent times.

Key Stats

  • In five matches across all formats, Australia have never lost at Manuka Oval.
  • Babar Azam has scored three times the amount of runs than any other batsman for Pakistan in T20Is this year.
  • Babar Azam has top-scored in five of his past ten T20Is.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Babar Azam Top Pakistan Batsman at 3.50 or bigger for 1 unit.

After a comprehensive series victory over Sri Lanka, Australia will hope to carry that form into the first of three T20Is against Pakistan at the SCG on Sunday.

The Aussies received very little competition against the Sri Lankans, recording three comfortable wins in which they were never really stretched. David Warner led the way at the top of the order, top-scoring in all three matches to finish with an incredible 217 runs without being dismissed, however, in contrast, the bowlers shared the load with six different multiple wicket-takers across the series.

One of the negatives about the hosts’ dominance with the bat was that the middle and lower order barely got a hit against the Lankans, plus they are missing Glenn Maxwell who has taken some time out to deal with mental health issues.

Quite alarmingly Pakistan’s latest foray in the T20 arena finished in a 3-0 home series defeat to the same Sri Lankan side, however prior to that they were a model of consistency, winning 11 of the preceding 13 series’ which has catapulted them to the top of the ICC rankings.

They showed their class and comfort in the conditions with a straight-forward six wicket win over a Cricket Australia XI in a warm-up fixture where fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, leg-spinner Shadab Khan and opening batsman Fakhar Zaman all starred.

Although they could barely have more commanding, the home side is yet to be truly tested and with Pakistan boasting more pedigree than Sri Lanka I think the visitors look a big price here.

Key Stats

  • Australia has never won three consecutive T20I series’.
  • Pakistan has won 11 of their past 14 T20I series’.
  • Pakistan has won their last five T20Is against Australia.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Pakistan at 3.90 or bigger for 1 unit.


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