Australia’s innings victory at the Gabba came as no surprise as Pakistan proved to be predictably meek visitors the daunting fortress that hasn’t been breached for more than three decades. Now attention turns to the Adelaide Oval as the Men in Green need to draw the series in order to not suffer a fourth consecutive series defeat Down Under. A defeat will make it four whitewashes in a row.
Here are the 11 players Pakistan should go with:
Shan Masood: The left-hander got starts in both innings but would be disappointed with the way he failed to capitalise on both of them, getting dismissed on 27 and 42. Masood has a reputation of being better adapted to playing the shorter-pitched deliveries than his compatriots but got out in both innings on balls that rose sharply from Pat Cummins. It has been four years since Masood made a century and he has just three half-centuries in that time. In his defence, he has been used sparingly but the 30-year-old is due a big score.
Imam-ul-Haq: HarisSohail’s alarming inability to learn from his mistakes was on display in the T20Is as well as the first Test as he got out in almost the exact manner multiple times, and he might be giving way for Imam at Adelaide. Imam’s Test average sits at just 28.41 after 10 Tests but his technique and temperament suggest he is more of a five-day player than a one-day one.
Azhar Ali: The new Test skipper was expected to step out of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan’s shadows after their retirement but the 34-year-old has regressed since their departure. He has an average of just 25.39 in the past two years — his leanest period ever in Test cricket — and looks nothing like the assured player of yesteryears. Azhar’s average in Australia is second only to his average in Bangladesh — propped up by a superb double-century that remarkably came in an innings defeat —and Pakistan will need their skipper to step up once again if they are to get an unlikely victory.
Babar Azam: It is time. Babar’s century in the second innings not only seemed like a watershed moment but also showed precisely why he should be batting further up the order. The right-hander looks much more at home when playing the harder and newer ball early in his innings and shouldn’t have to wait for a top-order collapse that sees him come out in the seventh over with the score at 25-3 to be able to unleash his full talent. Babar’s best average is still at the number six position but the feeling that he is being wasted there grows by the day, especially considering the side has players better suited to that role.
Iftikhar Ahmed: Iftikhar’s performances in the T20Is and the warm-up games mean he is likely to keep his place ahead of Haris Sohail. Iftikhar will hope to do more with both bat and ball as he was outshone by fellow part-timer Haris with the ball and made just seven runs in the two innings put together.
Asad Shafiq: The 33-year-old Asad Shafiqhasn’t quite regressed like Azhar since the retirement of Misbah and Younis but he hasn’t stepped up either. One of the reasons for this could be his promotion to number four from number six as team and player tried to fix something that wasn’t ever broken to begin with. Asad is Pakistan’s greatest-ever number six batsman and his average at number four and five since their retirement stands at 37.83 and 32.75 respectively. He averages 60.5 in the only Test he has played at number six in that time. Asad’s demotion down the order is not a demotion in his importance; it’s the place where he and the team are best served.
Muhammad Rizwan: Babar grabbed the headlines with his century but Rizwan might have been Pakistan’s best performer in the first Test. His counter-attacking 37 off just 33 deliveries in the first innings came to an end off a delivery that should have been given as a no ball before he scored 95 in the second innings to almost prevent the innings defeat.Rizwan is being given the full backing of the management and he seems to be revelling in the added responsibility.
Yasir Shah: It was a strange Test for Yasir Shah. He took four wickets, including that of Steve Smith, but will be unhappy at conceding a whopping 205 runs in the process. He played handy knocks of 26 and 42 with the bat and outperformed most of the Pakistan batsmen. Yasir would make it into the team just on the basis of being the only bowler in world cricket who seems to have any inkling on how to get Smith out but he was Pakistan’s top wicket-taker and their fifth-highest run-getter in the opening Test.
Shaheen Shah Afridi: It is an indication of Shaheen’s talent and an indictment of the rest of the team that the 19-year-old was perhaps the only one that provided skipper Azhar with any semblance of control. His economy rate of 2.82 was the only one under three but he can count himself lucky with both of his dismissals as he finished with 2-96. The inclusion of Abbas means Shaheenwill most probably be restored to wicket-taking duties.
Muhammad Abbas: The medium-pacer has 17 wickets at an average of 10.58 against Australia in two Tests on dead UAE pitches so his omission for the first Test seemed strange. The argument from the Pakistan camp was that Abbas has lost a yard of pace but that was never really a weapon for him to begin with. There may be some truth to that —his bowling averages read as 21.34 in 2017, 13.76 in 2018 and 46.2 in 2019 — but a doomed series against South Africa should not condemn the team’s best pacer to the bench.
Imran Khan: There was much debate over the inclusion of Imran Khan ahead of Muhammad Abbas in the first Test but Imran claimed an impressive five-for in a warm-up game and should have been selected ahead of Naseem Shah in the first place. Reports suggest that the 16-year-old will not be in the side for the second game and playing someone so young seemed a strange gamble to begin with. Imran has one of the worst records of any batsman in Test history but managed to outscore Steve Smith in the first Test so he always has that to tell his grandchildren.