With regular test stars Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft suspended for ball tampering and lethal fast bowlers Pat Cummins (no relation to the Bachelor) and Josh Hazelwood injured the Australian team selected for the two test series against Pakistan in the UAE was always going to be experimental.
The late withdrawal of opener Matt Renshaw and bizarre non-selection of in-form batsmen Joe Burns and Glenn Maxwell only compounded the changes – and the Australian cricket team is suffering. The bowlers struggled manfully on a slow pitch which offered very little over the first few days but is now beginning to come apart, and kept Pakistan to a respectable (on this pitch) 482 in their first innings.
New opening partners Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch set Australia up well for a competitive match, building a partnership of 142. The pitch was starting to become more conducive to slow bowling, however, and once Finch fell for 62 the all too familiar Australian batting collapse began.
With no Steve Smith to steady the ship and provide a settled partner for the lower order batsmen, and two debutants batting at 5 and 6, the collapse was swift. From 0-142 Australia’s demise was stunning, falling to 10-202 with 3 ducks to Travis Head, Marcus Labuschagne and Mitch Starc. Other than Finch and Khawaja no Australian outscored the extras column, with some wild Pakistani bowling gifting the team 13 runs through byes and leg-byes.
In a slight positive Pakistan barely started any better than Australia finished, declining to enforce the follow on and sitting at 3-45 at stumps – although with such a massive lead they hardly need to bat well. Today Australia will try to roll Pakistan cheaply and give themselves the time to chase an unlikely victory – although letting play drag on also decreases their chances of a defeat.