Pakistan coach Waqar Younis has said his side has spotted certain “weaknesses” in Australia during their tour-game defeat in Sharjah, and they will be looking to exploit that once the Test series gets underway in Dubai on Wednesday.
The Australians were undone by Pakistan A – a team that included several young players who could feature in the Tests – falling to 185 in the face of a target of 339. Waqar said he had keenly observed the game and made note of several things. “I was there and watched most of the game there and it was good to see youngsters doing well there,” Waqar said. “It [Pakistan A’s win] definitely has given us edge or a boost.
“I would say that because we have seen some weaknesses [in Australia] and I am pretty happy with it. At the same time I wouldn’t say it [the practice game] will be a big deal, but before the Test you want to win. They are a fine team, very professional side and do their things well but yeah, we have definitely seen some weaknesses and we are working on it and hopefully we will deliver the goods.”
Pakistan’s bowling line-up without Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan looks relatively fragile, as the suspended offspinner and the injured fast bowler had shouldered much of the burden over recent years. With the duo absent, Pakistan will be mainly relying on inexperienced and young bowlers. Waqar will be faced with reshaping the bowling line-up, but he is not fazed by the task.
“Bowlers like Junaid had done well in UAE, Ajmal has been a match-winner and their exit is a set-back but that doesn’t mean that we sit and give up. [Zulfiqar] Babar is bowling well and Yasir Shah has improved, he was in the team in Zimbabwe in 2011 and he has done well at domestic level. The bowling attack is good, it may be inexperienced but it’s good.”
Previously Pakistan have mostly played two spinners on the Dubai pitch, but Waqar suggested that the reverse-swing factor could play a part in team selection. “We have seen that in the past as well, that reverse-swing comes into play on these slow pitches as there is no grass on the pitches. And it’s good to see some young fast bowlers coming through in the line-up, [Mohammad] Talha who looks fitter than before, Rahat Ali has improved and Imran Khan [is there as well], so we have a fairly good attack, hoping to do well.”
Australia captain Micheal Clarke, who had been recovering from a hamstring injury in the lead-up to the tour match, might have warmed up in the scorching UAE weather but he has faced only 36 deliveries, falling cheaply in both innings in Sharjah. Waqar, however, was wary of Clarke’s fighting instinct and said he still had the ability to come good in the Tests.
“Look, it was just four-day cricket and was practice, and it wasn’t a first-class nor eleven a side even. Clarke getting out, and he hasn’t played for a while, I would say that’s an edge but we all know he is a classy player and he can come out and deliver for Australia.”
Fast bowler Mitchell Johnson is the nucleus of Australia’s bowling line up, and Pakistan will be watchful against him, Waqar said. “There is no doubt that he is the X-factor, he is the most improved bowler in the last few years. Initially in his career he had not been that big a threat but in the last two-three years he has definitely changed his mode, become lot better, he is more attacking and we know that they are going to use him in short spells and look for wickets from him. We are going to tackle him smartly.”