NEW DELHI: Donning the whites for the first time after the ball-tampering fiasco in South Africa in March this year, all eyes will be on a revamped Australian side that will be without the services of banned batsmen Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, as well as injured seamers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Aaron Finch, the Twenty20 International captain, and Travis Head have been inducted into the playing XI for the first Test, reported International Cricket Council (ICC). Along with the duo, batsman Marnus Labuschagne will also be handed his first Baggy Green in Dubai, confirmed captain Tim Paine.
However, they will have to bank on the experienced bowlers like Nathan Lyon and Mitchell Starc. Lyon will be pivotal on the slower surfaces of UAE, having returned figures of 8/103 against Pakistan A in a tour match earlier this week. “The pacers will be playing a supporting role and then “watch the world’s greatest [spinner] do his thing from the other end,” said Mitchell Starc.
Australia have also recalled Peter Siddle and will want him to combine with Starc to generate a formidable pace attack to support Lyon. Their middle order will be held up by the Marsh brothers, Shaun and Mitchell. Mitchell has been in ominous form and was also appointed as joint vice-captain with Hazlewood.
Meanwhile, Pakistan are coming off a disappointing campaign in Asia Cup. Earlier, they drew the two-Test series in England. With their bowling under scanner, seamer Mohammad Amir has been dropped from the 17-man squad and wrist-spinner Shadab Khan will miss the first Test due to injury.
Captain Sarfraz Ahmed will have to rely on the leg-spin of Yasir Shah. Top order batsmen Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, and Babar Azam will have to fire. Pakistan have played four Tests against Australia in their adopted home in UAE and have been victorious in two matches, losing the other two. Shah, set to play his first Test in a year, will be the key to Australia’s middle order and how he brings his experience to the fore is likely to determine the outcome of this series.
Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez
Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitch Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (c), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland (ANI)