Aus vs Pak, 1st Test – No specialist spinner for Pakistan, debuts for aamer Jamal and Khurram Shahzad

For the second time in as many tours to Australia, Pakistan have decided to line up in the opening Test with a relatively inexperienced bowling attack. Fast bowlers Aamer Jamal and Khurram Shahzad will both make their Test debuts, with Shaheen Shah Afridi leading the attack.
That leaves no room for Hasan Ali or any specialist spin bowling, with Noman Ali sitting out in favour of batter and part-time spinner Agha Salman. Seam-bowling allrounder Faheem Ashraf will bat at eight, with Pakistan opting for batting depth over a pedigreed spinner.
There were relatively few surprises in the batting line-up, and while both Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood talked up Mohammad Rizwan’s all-round contribution to the side, Sarfaraz Ahmed is the wicketkeeper while Rizwan remains on the bench. It is understood the option of playing Rizwan as a specialist batter was briefly considered, but in Noman’s absence, Agha’s part-time offspin provided him the edge.
Pakistan’s plans were thrown into disarray when Abrar Ahmed, the first-choice spinner, was injured ahead of the Perth Test, and now battles to be fit for the remaining two. Sajid Khan was flown in as emergency replacement, but he only arrived on Tuesday evening, and a Thursday start was deemed to be too soon for him. With four left-hand batters in Australia’s top seven, the offspinner was considered a better match-up than left arm spinner Noman, and his lack of readiness has seen them ditch the idea of a specialist spinner altogether.
The pitch was under covers for most of the day, but had heavy patches of greenery on Tuesday, two days out from the Test. The pitch at this venue last year against West Indies, while rated “good”, was much blander than are usual in Perth, with the fast bowlers not quite getting the assistance they have historically been accustomed to. The Optus Stadium curator said some of the grass would be shaved off the pitch, but Pakistan captain Masood said he expected it to provide significant assistance to fast bowlers.

While Pakistan have wrestled with how to manage their team combination, Australia announced their starting XI three days out from the Test. They play three specialist fast bowlers, spinner Nathan Lyon, and seam-bowling allrounder Mitchell Marsh.

Pakistan XI for first Test against Australia: Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Shan Masood (capt), Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Agha Salman, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheeh Shah Afridi, Aamer Jamal, Khurram Shahzad

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