Australia and Pakistan lock horns in the first Test at the Gabba, Brisbane, starting from Thursday. With a new captain at the helm, Pakistan will be encouraged especially by their young set of fast bowlers, who performed incredibly well in the warm-up matches. This will be Pakistan’s first match in the World Test Championship.
Australia, on the other hand, were clinical in the T20I series, not giving Pakistan a chance throughout. The hosts have 56 points on the board, courtesy of their two wins and a draw in The Ashes and will want to get off to the best possible start at home against a Pakistan side, who have undergone quite a few changes lately.
The head-to-head record firmly stacks in the hosts’ favour. These two teams have met each other 64 times in Tests. Australia have won 31 of those encounters to Pakistan’s 15. 18 Tests have ended in a draw. Australia have had complete dominance in the last five Tests at home having won all five of them.
The weather is expected to be largely sunny across the five days of the Test with temperatures to hover around the 24-degree mark on average. Rain should not be a problem in Brisbane during the Test.
The surface at Brisbane is one of the quickest in Australia and pace is what has intimidated touring teams in the past. It will be no different this time around too. In the last five Tests played at this venue, fast bowlers have picked 121 of the 154 wickets to fall, striking every 57.3 balls as compared to spinners’ 81.2. So, a line-up stacked up with pacers is imperative. The average first innings score at this venue over the last five Tests is a decent 368.
As mentioned above, pacers have been highly effective at this venue, so packing your side with at least four fast bowlers should be a no-brainer. In addition, five frontline batsmen, one all-rounder and one off-spinner could be an ideal make of your side.
On the bowling front, left-arm pacers have been the most effective at this venue over the last five Tests, having picked a wicket every 54.4 balls. The extra bounce that the Brisbane surface offers has helped finger spinners in the past and someone like Nathan Lyon could fit perfectly in your side. Lyon has a good record at Brisbane. He has a return of 33 wickets in eight Tests, striking every 56.5 balls.
Amongst the fast bowlers, you could include Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, and Shaheen Shah Afridi in your side.
Steve Smith has been unstoppable since his return to Test cricket and that is showing in his records. He was unstoppable during the recently concluded Ashes and was a key reason behind Australian retaining the urn. Smith is the highest run-scorer so far in Tests this year with 774 runs in seven innings at an average of 110.57 and there seems to be little stopping him. What should further convince you to make him the captain of your side is his record in Brisbane. Smith has scored 575 runs in nine innings at this venue which includes one half-century and three centuries. On current form, there is no one better suited to be the captain than Smith.
There is little doubt that Pat Cummins has been one of the best bowlers in the longest format of the game over the last two years. He is the highest wicket-taker since the start of 2018, with 87 scalps at an average of 19.1. Cummins has an excellent record at Brisbane too. He has picked up 14 wickets in two Tests here striking every 31 balls. The Brisbane surface is bound to aid Cummins and he can certainly help you score important points.
Babar Azam has been Pakistan’s best batsman in recent times across formats and he seems to keep improving. He is Pakistan’s highest run-getter since the start of 2018 with 760 runs in 18 innings, averaging a hefty 50.67. Babar is coming into the series on the back of a fabulous 157 in the tour game against Australia A and will be itching to further his credentials against a strong Australian unit.
No matter what the surface, Mitchell Starc is a lethal commodity. But on the pacy Brisbane pitch, the left-armer can really prove to be a handful. Left-arm pacers have historically done well in Brisbane and Starc could prove to be the x-factor for Australia and your side. He has been excellent since the start of 2018. Starc has picked 48 wickets in 25 innings since 2018 striking every 55.3 balls. If he gets into his groove early, Pakistan’s batsmen could be in real trouble.
Suggested FanFight team:
David Warner, Joe Burns, Babar Azam, Steve Smith (c), Marnus Labuschagne, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Abbas, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon