Australia's plan to prepare for a spin onslaught on their tour of the UAE has hit a snag after their opponents for their one and only warm-up match picked a side without any frontline spinners.
The Aussies will take on Pakistan A from Saturday in a four-day first-class match at the ICC Academy, their only tour game before the first Test begins at the nearby Dubai International Stadium on October 7.
The hosts have named a strong side for the lead-in match, led by Test star Asad Shafiq and featuring fiery left-arm quick Wahab Riaz.
But the absence of a specialist spin bowler is glaring given the Australians are expected to face a spin barrage in the Tests that follow.
The Pakistan A squad does feature allrounder Agha Salman, an off-spinner with a credible first-class bowling average of 31. But he's not been his local first-class team's frontline spinner in the three four-day games he's played this month and his career record (59 wickets from 48 matches) suggests he's primarily a batter who can chip in with the ball.
Part-timers Iftikhar Ahmed (off-spinner) and Saud Shakeel (left-arm orthodox) have also been included, but both players are recognised primarily as batters.
Regardless, the 14-player 'A' squad is, in terms of international-quality players, far stronger than the one Cricket Australia named for Pakistan's only warm-up match on their Test tour in 2016-17. That CA XI side, led by Will Bosisto and featuring no current or former international players, was rolled for 114 and 109 and lost by 201 runs in the day-night fixture in Cairns.
Along with Wahab and Shafiq, left-arm quick Rahat Ali, wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan, opener Sami Aslam and batsman Usman Salahuddin have all played Test cricket in the past two years and are in the A squad to play this weekend.
The standard of practice matches around the world has recently come under the microscope of the International Cricket Council's influential Cricket Committee, which has urged all member boards to improve conditions, facilities and the quality of opposition teams provided to visiting nations.
The Committee, led by former India coach Anil Kumble, in May identified "clear expectations for the treatment of visiting teams particularly around practice facilities, warm-up matches and logistical arrangements" as an area for improvement.
However, details of warm-up games and facilities remain primarily the domain of the host administration.
Speaking in June, CA's head of cricket operations Peter Roach acknowledged the standard of warm-up games around the world has fallen away in recent years, and pledged to improve conditions for teams who visit Australia.
"I think all countries have probably been guilty in the past of not scheduling really good preparation," Roach told cricket.com.au having announced that future touring teams would be given the chance to play warm-up games at Australia's Test venues, instead of smaller grounds.
"It’s not so much the amount of time before international matches (that’s the issue), but the quality of preparation that’s provided.
"So there’s a push from the ICC to ensure member boards treat teams more like guests, with good warm-up games, suitable conditions and standard of opposition so that when do hit first Test match of a series, they’re as ready as they best can be.
"Our position is that we want to play a real part in helping international teams prepare as best they can when they’re out here, in the time that they’ve got available.
"If we can be the frontrunners that set an example for everyone else to follow, it has to be better for the game.
"And we hope and expect that to be reciprocated when we go overseas."
Australia have flown two Indian wrist-spinners to Dubai to help them prepare for Pakistan's star Test leggies Yasir Shah and Shadab Khan and have made spin a major focus at the ICC Academy's superb facilities.
Pakistan A squad: Asad Shafiq (c), Sami Aslam, Abid Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali, Agha Salman, Muhammad Rizwan, Waqas Maqsood, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Amir Yamin, Umaid Asif, Saud Shakeel.
Qantas Tour of the UAE
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai
Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai
Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi