Pakistan take aim at 'slowest' tour-match pitch

Cricket Australia point to 'exceptional circumstances' after visitors left frustrated by surface prepared for Canberra warm-up game

Pakistan have complained about the lifeless Manuka Oval pitch used for their tour match after their coach suggested it was as slow as an Australian wicket could possibly be prepared.

Mohammad Hafeez, the former allrounder who has been appointed head coach and team director for the NRMA Insurance series against Australia, took aim at the Canberra surface prepared for last week's Prime Minister's XI game in Canberra ahead of the first Test in Perth.

The final day of the first-class fixture against what was essentially an Australia A team was abandoned after an extreme and unforeseen storm blew off covers and saw the wicket square take on water for 15 minutes.

But the tourists' issues predated that, with Hafeez lamenting the sluggishness of a pitch that saw only 13 wickets fall across the three days of play.

Cricket Australia have pointed to "exceptional circumstances". Inclement weather saw 120mm of rain fall in the week leading into the match before ground staff were presented with further challenges during the match.

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Perth Stadium, the venue for the first Test beginning Thursday, is renowned for producing fast and bouncy pitches.

"We ticked most of the boxes as a team, but obviously really surprised and disappointed with the arrangements in Canberra," Hafeez told reporters after his side trained at the WACA Ground on Monday.

"The pitch we received for the practice (match in Canberra), that was the slowest we can ever, ever play on as a visiting team in Australia."

In addition to adverse weather conditions that had made it difficult for Manuka Oval's ground staff to produce a faster surface leading into the match, Saturday's freak storm that cut off power to parts of Canberra also caused the pegs holding the covers to be ripped out of the ground.

The match was called off the next day given the state of the game. Play might have been possible on the final day had there been a desire from either team to continue.

"The match was played on a safe surface, but with little life in the pitch for the players. It was disappointing but exceptional circumstances did present leading into the match which made getting pace and bounce challenging," said CA's cricket operations boss Peter Roach.

That appears a more credible explanation for the pitch's slowness than Hafeez's suggestion it was deliberately prepared that way.

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Such a move would have been self-defeating given the importance Australian selectors had placed on the match, especially for the PM's XI's top order.

Three contenders to replace David Warner in the Test team – Cameron Bancroft, Marcus Harris and Matthew Renshaw – were given the chance to make runs against an international attack, while recently-ousted allrounder Cameron Green was also eager to shine.

Asked if he raised the issue with Cricket Australia, Hafeez said: "Everyone knew, so there's no point saying it again and again. The disappointment was really high because we were not expecting these kinds of arrangements.

"Some of it was maybe tactics.

"But we were ready for that."

Pakistan's head coach Mohammad Hafeez speaks with players at training in Rawalpindi prior to departing for Australia // AFP

Hafeez expressed his hope that leg-spinner Abrar Ahmed would be right to play the Boxing Day Test after he was ruled out of the Perth game having suffered a right knee injury in Canberra.

Sajid Khan has been called into the squad as cover but left-armer Noman Ali now appears likely to be handed the spin job to begin the tour. It is a blow for Pakistan given Abrar has taken 38 wickets in his first six Tests.

Pakistan, having won their most recent Test series 2-0 over Sri Lanka, are confident they can win the upcoming series despite having lost their last 14 Tests in Australia.

"This Test team is really settled, they have done a great job for Pakistan cricket in this format and everyone is excited to take the challenge," said Hafeez.

"That is the most encouraging thing. Performing in Australia would be great for them. As they always believe as a Pakistan team, we are here to beat Australia, not (just) to compete here.

"We have great talent within the team who can win within Australia. Preparation-wise we have ticked most of the boxes. The guys are really hungry to play against Australia … they want to beat Australia here this time."

NRMA Insurance Test series v Pakistan

Prime Minister's XI v Pakistan XI: Match drawn

First Test: December 14-18, Perth Stadium (1.20pm AEDT)

Second Test: December 26-30, MCG (10.30am AEDT)

Third Test: January 3-7, SCG (10.30am AEDT)

Australia squad: (first Test only) Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Lance Morris, Steve Smith, Mitch Starc, David Warner

Pakistan squad: Shan Masood (c), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi