Pakistan short on pace bowlers as Australia tests approach

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A lot has been said and written about how Pakistan’s batsmen struggle in Australia to get big runs. What people don’t recall is that the bowlers struggle to pick 20 wickets in a game. They also leak runs at a massive rate.

Thankfully, Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector, has this reality in mind. When asked a question about how well Pakistan’s batsmen were prepared for the Australian tests, Misbah drew attention of people to the real problem. The bowling lineup of Pakistan has consistently failed in Australia. They have failed in two aspects. Firstly, they have failed to get 20 wickets. Secondly, they have leaked runs. Now to some evidence to support this notion. In their last tour to Australia, Pakistan breached 400 about three times. One of them, a valiant attempt to chase a mammoth 490 to win. They managed to fall 31 runs short of the target. Asad Shafiq with a magnificent 138, well supported by the tail. The second total of 400 plus was in the first innings of the second test in Melbourne. Azhar Ali scored a superb unbeaten double hundred and carried the bat.

Pakistan managed to score over 440 runs. It seemed that the match was in their control. But the bowling let Pakistan down. They leaked runs and failed to pick wickets. Warner got a hundred inside one session. He ran away with the game. Australia ended up scoring more than 600 runs in their first innings. The game was over for Pakistan. And so was the series. Pakistan go into another Australian test summer with perhaps more problems to cope with. Pakistan’s most experienced pace bowlers in test cricket have announced their retirements from red ball cricket. Wahab Riaz and Muhammad Amir were both part of Pakistan’s squad that toured Australia three years back. So that is a loss of a major chunk of experience. As a result, as it stands, Pakistan have problems and serious ones considering the pace department. Muhammad Abbas is at the moment the leader of the pack. He has never played any sort of cricket in Australia before. Shaheen Shah Afridi is another man likely to feature in the XI that will play the first test against Australia. He hasn’t played cricket in Australia either. And he is young. Hasan Ali is the third name on the list. And he has been in and out of Pakistan’s test side.

What is striking is that there is no express pace bowler of mention here. All the pace bowlers operate at an average speed of less than 140 Kph. It won’t be enough. Just won’t be enough considering the Kookaburra ball, the surfaces and the history of Pakistan’s pace bowlers in Australia. Historically, it’s the hit the pitch bowlers, rather than the ones who swing the ball, that are more dangerous and effective. Pakistan’s current attack has only one hit the pitch bower, Hasan Ali. But he too has lost pace and form. If he regains form he could be a handful. The other two pace bowlers, Abbas and Shaheen, are bowlers who pitch the ball up or are floaters. Floaters historically aren’t successful in Australia. What options does the team management have then? Misbah is fully aware of the core issue. That’s good news. He might also know that he needs express pace bowlers or at least one of that class to trouble Australia. What are the options then? Muhammad Husnain has played for Pakistan but just in white ball cricket. He doesn’t have much first class experience. So he can’t be immediately considered for Pakistan’s test side.

Haris Rauf and Muhammad Musa are the other two options. Both these bowlers are express and do have first class experience. Both were impressive in the Pakistan super league. But they haven’t played for Pakistan yet. That is the only drawback with them. But Pakistan don’t have an option. The only question would be who between Musa and Haris Rauf? Misbah will have the most important part to play in this. Muhammad Musa played in last year’s domestic season for SNGPL, a team that Misbah lead. Misbah used Musa as an enforcer to pick wickets when needed. Musa used the short ball to great effect, and although fans couldn’t see him on TV there, he did catch the eyes of Pakistan cricket fans when he played for Islamabad United in the Pakistan super league. He swung the new ball and bullied the batsmen with quick short stuff. He was expensive at times but picked wickets and important ones.

Muhammad Musa’s lack of experience would be a worry. But having played under Misbah, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to pick him for the tour of Australia. Misbah will know exactly about his strengths and weaknesses and where can he be utilized in a test innings in Australia. Besides, Pakistan have no choice. They don’t have the express pace of Wahab Riaz in test cricket anymore. So they have to induct someone who can create an impact. And no issues with taking a gamble with Muhammad Musa.

This makes it four fast bowlers. Pakistan will most probably go with five fast bowlers in the test squad. Whether the fifth seamer will be Fahim Ashraf or a frontline seamer, time will tell. Fahim Ashraf has been up and down in test cricket and Pakistan have played him and Shadab together to have the option of 5 bowlers. It isn’t a bad idea specially considering how much Pakistan have missed the fifth bowler in previous test series in Australia. The other option Pakistan could consider is that of Mir Hamza. Hamza has a lot of first class experience and was exceptional in the county championship early this year. He also has plenty of first class wickets under his belt. So he could be a very useful option as well. He needs to be given consistent chances. He was impressive in the home series against Australia last year. But was surprisingly not given the opportunity to feature against South Africa in the away series. Hopefully he will be given a consistent opportunity by the current management.