Dubai: Pakistan hope to end a 20-year drought against Australia when they meet in the first of two Tests in Dubai from Wednesday but they are hobbled by the absence of spin king Saeed Ajmal.
Mitchell Johnson (left) and David Warner take a break during a practice session in Dubai yesterday. Pics/Getty Images
Ajmal, who has been suspended due to an illegal bowling action, has single-handedly ruled the dry and slow tracks of Pakistan's neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates, especially at Dubai where he has 37 wickets in six Tests, three of which Pakistan won.
Pakistan have also lost frontline seamers Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz — both through knee injuries — and have to rely on uncapped leg-spinner Yasir Shah and two-Test left-armer Zulfiqar Babar, both of whom are likely to play.
Captain Misbah-ul Haq, under pressure to score runs after managing nought and 15 in the preceding 3-0 ODI series defeat, admitted Ajmal's absence is significant. "Ajmal has left a big hole," said Misbah, who skippers a team whose last Test series win over Australia was back in 1994.
Asad Shafiq en route his 108 in a warm-up tie against Oz last week
The return of veteran batsman Younis Khan and Azhar Ali will boost Pakistan's fragile batting. Australia will also look to include both spinners in Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe despite their unimpressive record of losing five of the last six Tests (one draw) in which they played with two spinners.
But they have dominated Pakistan, winning 13 out of the last 14 Tests against them. Pakistan head coach Waqar Younis believes Australia's defeat in a warm-up game has helped him find flaws in the opposition for the first Test. "It's quite nice to see them lose," said Waqar.
"It was good to see youngsters doing well there and, yes, it definitely has given us an edge or a boost, because we have seen some weaknesses which can be good for us."