Unknown V Well-the World Known Story Adds To The Intrigue At Gabba-opener > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Unknowns v Well-knowns narrative adds intrigue to Gabba opener
What were you up to when you were 16? Expect to be asked this rather unfair and borderline ageist question a lot over the next few days. Firstly remember, you don't really have to answer that question. More importantly, there are only 10 men - one of whom, Khalid Hasan, has unfortunately passed away - in history who like Naseem Shah can say, "I was playing Test cricket". So, you are in the overwhelming majority.
It's no surprise that Australia seems to be very taken by Naseem. A local journalist even brought up his own 16-year-old son as a contrast to just why so enamoured they are by the teenage Pakistani prodigy's imminent Test debut at the Gabba on Thursday (November 21). Only 15 Australian men after all have played Test cricket before they turned 20 over the 152 years they've been playing the sport.
That's what makes Pakistan an exciting team always though, this sense of unpredictability and capriciousness, which at times can come across as a suspension of disbelief. On most days, they say, it's rather difficult to know what to expect from a Pakistani cricket team. But this is a Pakistani outfit which perhaps doesn't quite know what to expect from themselves, which again could make them both vulnerable or dangerous, depending on how they rock up for the gig over the next five days.
Throwing a completely unknown kid, who in most other countries would still only be paddling with a float on in a cricketing sense, is only the coating on top of what is a Pakistan team in an experimental stage. They have a new captain, a new coach who is also chief selector, a new wicket-keeper and a slew of new faces probably even relatively new to those back home. They haven't won a Test in Australia for 25 years and they have never won a Test series here. But still, if there's one team you never rule out till you actually see them ruling themselves out in the middle, it's Pakistan. And there'll be hope about them creating history till the time there actually is no hope.
Azhar Ali and his side could potentially take some inspiration from India having ended the subcontinental hoodoo Down Under. But that was against an Australian team who'd been forced into an experimental phase, and much like Pakistan here, had an overwhelming sense of "newness" to them. With Steve Smith and David Warner having returned since, it's a more settled Australian team of course, but also one that has a more predictable tinge to it - even if the paint hasn't dried yet on the middle-order either side of Smith.
With the Ashes urn now safely in their custody, Tim Paine & Co. will now set their eyes on regaining their hold over the citadel they'd surrendered to the Indians last year. It'll also be Australia's chance to welcome back their two refreshed superstars, Smith and Warner, in whites though with numbers on their backs. And it's this clash of the unknowns against the well-knowns that promises to add a lot of intrigue to the opening game of a largely tepid home summer in Australia. That is till Pakistan don't live up to that intrigue, if they don't.
When: Australia v Pakistan, 1st Test, November 21 to 25, 10.30 am Local, 05.30 am IST
Where: The Gabba, Brisbane
What to expect: It's not always that Brisbane doesn't take the honour of having the hottest day around the east and central coast this time of the year. But on Wednesday, Adelaide took that badge with temperatures there soaring to around 42 degrees. The weather in Brisbane, much like the Gabba pitch, is rather consistent however. You know what to expect, even if the 22 yards did carry an additional shade of green on Wednesday (November 20). There'll still be a lot of runs on offer you'd assume and the spectre of Nasser Hussain will forever rest over any captain who wins the toss and even thinks for a second about bowling first.
But with Pakistan set to unleash an arsenal of pace against the hosts, don't rule out anything. Most importantly, it's good to start the summer again in Brisbane, as has been the norm traditionally, even if it means the Gabba becomes the first Australian venue in a long time to host two Tests in the same year.
Australia: The last two days have witnessed a lot of confirmations from the Australian camp with regards to personnel. We know Mitchell Starc is back in the Test team and also according to both captain and coach, finally on top of his game and length with the red-ball. We know Warner has his favourite opening partner, Joe Burns, back at the top of the order. And we know No.3, as Paine put it, is for Marnus Labuschagne to own. What Australia will seek from their batsmen though is some sort of support for Smith, much like what Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon would expect from Starc, after he let them down for most parts of last summer.
Playing XI: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Matthew Wade, Tim Paine (c/wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood
Pakistan: We know for sure what Pakistan's top-seven looks like, based purely on the fact that Imam-ul-Haq wasn't even noted down to have a net on Wednesday. That basically means skipper Ali will open with Shan Masood while Iftikhar Ahmed comes in at No.6 as a steady middle-order batsman who can bowl useful off-spin, especially to left-handers. But does Iftikhar's inclusion also mean Pakistan are prepared to take the rather contentious step of leaving Yasir Shah, their only genuine proven world-class bowler, out? It very well could, considering the hype around their pace attack and the look of the pitch. But like with every other aspect of Pakistan cricket, it's better not too stick your neck out too far in prediction.
Probable XI: Azhar Ali (c), Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Imran Khan/Mohammad Musa/Yasir Shah, Naseem Shah
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