New Zealand coach Mike Hesson says if Pakistan’s seam bowling attack can get the ball to swing and their batsman can pile on the runs they’re a real shot at beating Australia in Test cricket this summer.
Hesson’s men have arrived in Australia for a three-match Victoria Bitter ODI Series having just beaten Pakistan in a Test series for the first time in more than 30 years.
While the Black Caps swept Pakistan 2-0 on home soil, Hesson says he saw enough in Australia’s next Test rivals to trouble the hosts, starting with the first Test in Brisbane on December 15.
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Pakistan have never beaten Australia in a Test series in Australia, from 11 attempts, losing the past six dating back to 1981.
“If (Pakistan) can get the ball swinging, from a seam attack I think they’ve got a good chance,” Hesson said in Sydney on Thursday.
“(Left-arm paceman Mohammad) Amir is a very good bowler but he’s exceptional if he swings it.
“That’ll be a challenge for them over here (in Australia).
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“The rest of their seam attack will hold their own.
“(Pakistan possess) a very, very good spinner. We didn’t see a lot of him in New Zealand due to the conditions, but Yasir Shah is an exceptional bowler.
“If he gets on a surface that offers a bit of up and down (bounce) he can challenge the Australian batting line-up.”
Amir and Sohail Khan were the leading wicket-takers for Pakistan recently in New Zealand with both bowlers taking seven wickets in two Tests, while Imran Khan collected six victims in his only Test in Hamilton.
Australia’s batting order has undergone significant change since the last time the two sides met at Test level, in the UAE in 2014, but while there may be some new faces the same issues against quality swing and spin bowling exist.
Leg-spinner Shah claimed 12 wickets in his debut series against Australia two years ago in the 2-0 thumping and will again be major threat to Steve Smith’s charges this summer.
Yasir is Pakistan’s top-ranked bowler at No.9 on the ICC Test Bowler Ratings system, but only bowled 13.3 overs in New Zealand on green pitches suited for seam bowling.
While the Gabba wicket will likely have a green tinge to help protect the pink ball during the venue’s first day-night Test match, Yasir should enjoy the pace and bounce that has made it a favourite stop for Australian spinners Nathan Lyon and the legendary Shane Warne.
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Considered one of the best pitches in the country, Brisbane traditionally offers assistance to seam and swing bowling, and if a batsman is capable of surviving early, plenty of runs.
And that’s where Hesson believes the series between Australia and Pakistan could be decided.
Only one Pakistan batsman (Babar Azam) averaged more than 31 against New Zealand last month, and that will have to vastly improve if Misbah-ul-Haq’s men are to win in Australia for the first time ever.
“I think the key is just getting enough runs in these conditions,” Hesson said.
“If their top order is able to show the discipline they did in New Zealand that might allow their middle-order stroke-players to play a few shots.
“They’ve got some really nice players in the middle there. Babar (Azam) is an excellent player. (Asad) Shafiq and Sarfraz (Ahmed) can change a game quickly.
“There’s enough talent there to certainly put up a good show.”
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