Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Lyon 'really surprised' by Abbas omission
Australian spinner says the absence of the right-armer indicates Pakistan’s bowling attack will provide a stern test in Brisbane
Adam Burnett at the Gabba
21 November 2019, 08:53 PM AEST
Australia’s Nathan Lyon has conceded he was "really surprised" Pakistan opted to omit their most experienced paceman, Mohammad Abbas, from their XI for the opening Domain Test in Brisbane.
On a green-looking Gabba wicket, the tourists rolled the dice with the decidedly young pace-bowling trio of Imran Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah, who went into the match boasting a combined 12 Tests between them.
Warming the bench for the Pakistanis through this match will be Abbas, whose average of 18.86 in 14 Tests is the best in the world since his debut (min 25 wickets) in April 2017. Last year, the right-armer ran through the Australians with 17 wickets in two Tests in the United Arab Emirates, a series that catapulted him into third spot in the ICC's Test bowling rankings.
While Abbas has failed to hit those heights since, taking just seven wickets in his next four Tests and slipping to 12th in the rankings, Lyon said an eyebrow was nonetheless raised when his name was not on the team sheet.
"I was actually really surprised, personally," the off-spinner told cricket.com.au. "I thought the way he bowled in our series in the UAE was absolutely world class.
"I think he's ranked (around) the top 10 so for him to miss out, it must show the quality of the Pakistan bowling.
"So we're not going to take them lightly, that's for sure – they've got some world-class bowlers there – but yeah, very surprised that Mohammad wasn't a part of their side."
In the build-up to the first Test, the Australians had forecast Abbas would be a major threat, largely for his ability to extract movement off the pitch.
Marnus Labuschagne compared the Pakistani to Peter Siddle with the way he "moves the ball both ways – nipping it in, nipping it away", while Pat Cummins stressed the need for a reliable defence given Abbas's propensity to be "at you all day at the top of off-stump".
Former Australia skipper and expert analyst Ricky Ponting, meanwhile, said though there had been suggestions Abbas's form had tailed off in 2019, he still believed the paceman could have proven a handful at the Gabba.
"I was surprised when (Abbas) didn't play … but then talking to (former Pakistan international) Rameez (Raja) apparently he's not in the best of form, he's dropped a couple of yards of pace – and he's never been overly quick anyway," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"But you think about these conditions, it would've been perfect for him. Even the next Test in Adelaide, it's going to be great conditions for him there as well.
"There's probably a couple of the Aussie batsmen who think it's good that he's not playing because I think they can probably handle the other two (Imran Khan or Shaheen Afridi) better than they can handle him."
Australia will begin their first innings when play begins on Friday after dismissing Pakistan for 240, and Lyon said the opening stand of 75 between Azhar Ali (39) and Shan Masood (27) had offered some valuable insights as to how best to bat on this Gabba wicket.
"The Pakistan batters actually showed a lot of discipline early," he said. "They left a lot of balls and were very patient.
"(Hopefully) we can learn from that, come out and show a lot of patience.
"They're a young bowling attack but they're going to put some balls in the right areas. So if we can respect them for a long period of time, hopefully we can put some good partnerships on and see where we get to."
Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner
Pakistan squad: Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.
First Test: November 21-25, Gabba (Seven, Fox & Kayo)