Abu Dhabi: With the Aussies having salvaged an unlikely draw in the first Test, the pressure will be on Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad going into the series-deciding second Test at the Shaikh Zayed Stadium on Tuesday.
The action starts at 10am.
As of now, it clearly looks like there is a lot playing on the mind of Sarfraz as he has tried too many things at the same time in the first Test.
He needs to stay relaxed and believe this is their territory and he need not go too hard to try and manufacture wickets against the men from Down Under.
Something that his opposite number Tim Paine has clearly learnt in his short stint as captain. A calm Paine has used his resources brilliantly from behind the stumps and that has also resulted in him doing well with the willow as well. He looks far more sorted and confident from what he was against South Africa and later in the ODI series against England.
Yes, the Aussies have put up a remarkable fightback to deny Pakistan victory on a wearing fifth-day pitch and have avoided defeat by holding on to their two wickets.
They certainly have their tail-up, having scripted a stalemate led by Usman Khawaja with a defiant 141 along with other fighting innings by Travis Head and Paine, who later played out the last overs with Nathan Lyon.
The renowned fighting qualities of the Aussies were once again in full view and with that they also sent out a strong message — if you give them [the Aussies] an inch they will snatch a yard.
The morale-boosting draw would have bolstered their determination to win a Test series in Asia for the first time since 2011, but they will also be aware that the task won’t be that easy.
Their eyes had lit-up when the covers were lifted and they saw a green top on Sunday, but on the eve of the encounter every inch of grass was shaved off. And with the October sun still beating down hard around 38 degrees, another back-breaking effort is needed from the pace bowlers to be amongst wickets. The batters will have to dig deep patiently to score runs.
Sarfraz’s worry starts with the opening slot especially with the in-form Imam-ul-Haq out of action with a finger injury.
While the Australian counterparts are more guarded in their approach and even avoid giving any one-on-one interviews other than to their travelling media, Pakistan have announced their playing 12 ahead of the crucial Test.
Aggressive ODI opener Fakhar Zaman will be getting his Test cap while leg spinner Shadab Khan is in for Wahab Riaz who failed to exploit any reverse swing with the older ball. Twenty-year-old Shadab had missed the first Test with a groin injury.
“Yes, one of the reasons is to get someone like Fakhar to have someone who can play aggressively and score at a brisk pace. You need someone like that in a team. Teams around the world do that. We hope that the batsmen should target to play for at least three hours once they get set,” said Sarfraz, in the prematch press conference.
Zaman had managed only 56 runs in five games, including two ducks, in the recently concluded Asia Cup, but it is learnt that coach Mickey Arthur has still backed him more for the role rather than promoting Azhar Ali up the order.
Sarfraz also brushed aside talk that there was any pressure on him or his team going into the contest.
“There is no pressure after the draw I would say … as a team or as a captain. We have played well and it’s unfortunate that the wickets didn’t fall and we didn’t win the Test match,” said Sarfraz, who is also struggled with the bat. In his last six Test innings, he has only managed 74 in total and his last Test century had come way back in 2014 against New Zealand in Dubai.
“As far as my batting goes, I’m concentrating hard in the nets. I will try to play a big innings whenever I get an opportunity. Yes, my batting has to improve and I’m working on it,” said Sarfraz, adding that the Test captaincy had not weighed heavily on him affecting his batting or his decision-making ability.
“My temperament has always been the same from the time I took over as captain. According to me there has not been a change. When I talk, people say you are talking and when I don’t people will say I’m quiet. These talks have been going around for the last two years, but I have been the same person,” said Sarfraz, who also faced some criticism with his review calls during the first Test. The skipper felt there was very little one could plan when you have a 15 second window to call for a review and lot depend on the umpires decision.
“It is all about judgement and it is quite difficult you can say. You have to watch closely where it is pitched and where it is hitting. All these things matter and you have to just keep working. You have to go with it if the bowler is confident. In lbw, mostly it is keeper and the bowler call as we are in the best position to watch where the ball pitched.”