Pakistan v Australia Tests - Men
Pace, not spin, to dominate historic Pakistan tour
Australia are set to end a 24-year absence from Pakistan in March but have been warned the country will not be serving up traditional turning subcontinent wickets
11 January 2022, 07:02 PM AEST
Australia have been warned against planning for a spin assault on their upcoming Test tour of Pakistan, where fast bowlers have taken almost twice as many wickets as spinners in the past two years.
Australia are scheduled to tour Pakistan in March for the first time in 24 years, the first stop on a three-leg Asian Test campaign that has been billed as a stern test of their spin credentials and a chance for Mitchell Swepson to finally make his Test debut.
But Pakistan's recent Test history on home soil, while brief, indicates pace will play more of a role than spin for the Tests in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore.
In the five Tests Pakistan have hosted since late 2019 following a decade-long absence for security reasons, fast bowlers have taken 89 wickets at an average of just under 30 compared to 48 wickets from spinners at an average nudging 40.
Former Test and ODI batter Bazid Khan, who commentated during all five Tests and is one of the few people to have seen Test cricket live in Pakistan in the past 10 years, has warned Australia against picking a spin-heavy attack.
"The general perception, which I think is wrong, is … there's going to be two spinners in the game and it's going to spin all the way through," he told cricket.com.au from Islamabad.
"Pakistan is totally different to India. The ball is not going to spin straight away and mostly the wickets have been taken by the faster men rather than the spinners.
"I think if you don't have two world-class spinners, you don't play them here.
"That would play into Pakistan's hands because they like playing spin, and it's not like Dubai or Abu Dhabi on the fifth day where the ball is going to spin square. It's not going to happen.
"That subcontinent theory, I don't think it works in Pakistan."
Numbers provided by Opta show that in Pakistan's five recent home Tests against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and South Africa, the quicks have bowled almost 60 per cent of the overs and have a superior average and strike rate to the spinners.
In contrast, recent Tests in Sri Lanka, where Australia are scheduled to tour in the middle of the year, have seen spinners take almost three times as many wickets as the quicks and at a better average and strike rate.
Recent history in India, where Australia are set to tour in early 2023, shows spinners taking more wickets (258 to 150) but at an average, strike rate and economy rate similar to those of the fast bowlers.
Khan believes Australia's star quicks "will be quite happy with the conditions" they get in Pakistan, especially for the second Test in Rawalpindi, but has warned they will have to bowl long spells on pitches that tend to flatten out as a match progresses.
He added reverse swing will be an important weapon and one that has been used to great effect by Pakistan's Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi in recent years.
"Pakistan, once they got the ball reversing, they bowl teams out quickly," he said.
Australia have not toured Pakistan in any form of the game since Mark Taylor was Test captain and selector Tony Dodemaide conceded today there is an element of the unknown about the tour.
"In terms of Pakistan, we're not all that familiar (with conditions)," he said. "We haven't got a lot of information on the type of pitches that we will have there.
"I've been there myself, but it was a long, long time ago and of course things are very different (now)."
Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said this week "the absolute plan is to go" to Pakistan after a recent reconnaissance trip from officials to better understand the security situation.
"At this stage I feel like we're in really good shape," he said. "Everyone's committed to going ... as long as it's safe to do so.
"The historical significance of this tour cannot be underestimated."
Usman Khawaja, Australia's Pakistan-born batter, has also urged his teammates to take part.
"It's a great opportunity for Australian cricket to give a little bit back and I said that to the guys," Khawaja told Fox Cricket. "You can actually inspire a generation of cricketers who have never seen you play.
"Hopefully we’ll get over there, not just for my sake but for Pakistan cricket and for all those young boys and girls out there."
Tests in Pakistan 2019-2021
Pace: 89 wickets at 29.6
Spin: 48 wickets at 39.4
Tests in Sri Lanka 2019-2021
Pace: 65 wickets at 37
Spin: 179 wickets at 31.5
Tests in India 2019-2021
Pace: 150 wickets at 26.3
Spin: 258 wickets at 27.7
(Numbers provided by Opta)
Vodafone Men's Ashes
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith (vc), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Michael Neser, Jhye Richardson, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
England: Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Sam Billings, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
First Test: Australia won by nine wickets
Second Test: Australia won by 275 runs
Third Test: Australia won by an innings and 14 runs
Fourth Test: Match drawn
Fifth Test: January 14-18, Blundstone Arena