Domain Test Series v Pakistan
Yasir looks to banish Australia torment
Pakistan insist the leg-spinner is a different bowler after struggling Down Under three years ago, while the home side are also wary
Adam Burnett in Brisbane
20 November 2019, 04:39 PM AEST
The ability of leg-spinner Yasir Shah to heed a series of painful lessons from three years ago could be critical in determining just how competitive Pakistan will be against Australia's batsmen in their home conditions, particularly with regards to Steve Smith.
The tourists' coach Misbah-ul-Haq and captain Azhar Ali have both insisted Yasir has made key changes with a view to success Down Under – so often a graveyard for visiting spin bowlers.
Even Tim Paine expects Australia will see "a different bowler" from the one who was humbled in the 2016-17 three-Test series, during which he took eight wickets at an average of 84 and and economy rate of 4.53.
Yet given the way he was manhandled by the Australians three years ago, there was no official confirmation on match eve that Yasir would take his place in Thursday's first Test at the Gabba.
Smith and David Warner hit two centuries apiece in that 2016-17 series with the left-handed Warner particularly savage on the leg-spinner, however the Pakistani camp believe that baptism of fire in Australia and recent work with a view to this tour have the 33-year-old well placed for success.
"You learn every time with your experiences," said Azhar today. "He has learned before coming here what he lacked last time and he has been doing this in the practice sessions we've had in the last couple of weeks.
"He has been working really hard on what he needs to do, and he has been bowling well. Hopefully this time he can change things around."
Misbah was similarly optimistic with regards to the man who rocked the Australians on his Test debut five years ago in the UAE, taking 12 wickets in two Tests and striking every 38 balls.
"We know Yasir hasn't done well in these conditions, but three years is a long time. He now has experience of playing in Australia," he told cricket.com.au.
"He's coming on this tour on the back of some good performances in first-class cricket, where he's bowled long spells. He's worked a lot on his bowling, keeping the conditions in mind."
In a promising sign for Pakistan, Yasir bowled 22 overs and conceded just 39 runs for one wicket against Australia A in Perth last week, and backed it up with 1-39 from 12 overs against a Cricket Australia XI three days later.
The leg-spinner can also boast a record of dismissing Smith six times in just five Tests, including caught behind twice in the third Test of that 2016-17 series. Smith was also dropped from the leg-spin of Azhar Ali in the first Test in Brisbane when on 53; he went on to make 130 as Australia won by 39 runs.
Whether it is enough to be considered a weakness for the record-breaking Australian is another matter, though Paine was emphatic that his team had a healthy awareness of Yasir's qualities, as well as some valuable intel from Smith and Warner on how best to handle him.
"They've shared a bit on him – I won't tell you exactly what it was because we don't want to tell him what they've picked up – but what we know about Yasir is he's a quality bowler," the skipper said.
"He's not the first bowler to come here and struggle once, and we're not going to judge him off a couple of Test matches he played here three or four years ago.
"We know how good he is, we know the threat that he is, and we're really lucky that we've had Steve and Dave who have played against him a lot, had a bit of success against him, and have shared what worked for them against him.
"But I'm expecting him to be a different bowler to what he was the last time around. He's had some time to think about it and prepare for this series and the conditions he's going to get.
"I think he would've learnt a lot from the last time he was here and we're expecting the very best of him."
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)