24 December, 2009
Beware of the talented Pakistan attack!
That is the message emanating out of the Australian camp ahead of the start of the three Test series at the MCG on Boxing Day as Pakistan prepares for only its second Test tour of Australia this decade.
And expect this series to be far closer than their last visit back in 2004/05 when Australia won the three Tests in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney by 491 runs, nine wickets and nine wickets respectively.
But that was at a time when Australia's team and in particular its attack was at its peak with Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in destructive form whereas in contrast now five years later the home side has very much an inexperienced pace attack led by Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle with Ben Hilfenhaus still sidelined by injury.
And Australia has still yet to find another leg spinner to fill the shoes of the irreplaceable Warne with off-spinner Nathan Hauritz now the country's incumbent spinner.
In contrast to the home side, the visitors appear to have a much more balanced attack featuring not only both right and left arm quicks in Mohammad Sami, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and left armer Mohammad Aamir but also the world's best leg spinner at present in Danish Kaneria plus a dangerous off spinner in Saaed Ajmal, who possesses a dangerous 'doosra.'
It all adds up to a far more testing assignment for the Aussies than the recent 2-0 series win over West Indies.
Certainly Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke believes the Pakistan attack will be a handful over the three match series.
"They have got some good young quicks and they have got the young left armer Aamir who has got some pace and they have got a couple of good spinners in their squad as well," he said.
Clarke also believes Pakistan will be suited by the first two Tests being played in Melbourne and Sydney.
"I think the conditions here (in Melbourne) and in Sydney will help Pakistan," he said.
"The wicket at the MCG is generally a bit slower than the WACA or the Gabba and they have got good spinners in their squad and obviously Sydney will spin so that will play a part as well."
"So as an attack they have got good variation with right and left arm fast bowlers - a leg spinner and an off spinner so it’s a pretty good squad of bowlers."
Veteran batsman Mike Hussey agreed with Clarke that it is Pakistan's bowlers that pose the biggest danger in the series.
"They have got a lot of matchwinners and they have got a lot of very dangerous players, particularly their bowlers," Hussey said.
"So I think we are in for a very tough Test series and we are all going to have to be playing at our best to come out on top."
Australia has won nine of its past ten Boxing Day Tests but lost against South Africa in Melbourne last year as South Africa went on to inflict Australia's first Test series defeat on home soil since 1992/93.
While it is a big call to suggest Australia could lose Test series at home in successive seasons after going unbeaten at home for 16 years, the Australian batsmen will be under plenty of pressure in the Boxing Day Test - particularly if skipper Ricky Ponting is ruled out with the elbow injury he sustained in Perth against the Windies.
Hussey said the Australian batsmen are all too aware that not one of them managed a century in the recent three Test series against the Windies, whose attack is nowhere near the level of Pakistan's.
"I know all our batsmen are very, very determined," Hussey said.
"We didn't get a hundred (between us) in the last series but all the guys have been batting very well and putting together good starts but we are very determined to try and push on with these starts and get some big hundreds as well."
Pakistan also served notice of its intentions with a dominant performance against Tasmania in its only tour match before the first Test and unlike other recent touring sides to Australia it arrives match-hardened having only just completed a three Test series against New Zealand in New Zealand.
That series finished 1-1 although rain saved the Pakistanis in the third Test in Napier when the Kiwis appeared headed for a series clinching victory.
But while Pakistan will fancy its chances against an Australian team in transition and which is no longer feared around the world, the tourists will not be heartened by their dismal record in Australia.