Aussies face trial by spin

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Pakistan v Australia
Saturday 12 March 05.00
TV: live on Sky Sports

Pakistan at full-strength

Pakistan have been boosted by the return from illness and injury of Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf.

Faheem balances the XI and is expected to replace Iftikhar Ahmed, who was something of a passenger in the first Test, while Hasan will probably replace Naseem Shah.

The home team’s decision to produce a bland pitch while they waited for their strongest XI looks smart. Although Rawalpindi was dull, the likes of Imam-ul-Haq, a century in either innings, and Abdullah Shafique, who also notched a ton, will be on cloud nine.

Probable XI: Shafique, Imam, Azhar, Babar, Fawad, Rizwan, Faheem, Hasan, Nauman, Sajid, Afridi

Australia turn to spin

Australia would have expected a trial by spin throughout this tour. It didn’t happen in Rawalpindi but Karachi could be a different story.

To ask questions of Pakistan, they could call up legspinner Mitch Swepson. Swepson has never played Test cricket and he could be the first leggie to play for Australia since 2009. As if to highlight the genius and unique ability of Shane Warne, a production line of leggies is not one of his legacies.

Cameron Green could be the man to make way, or one from Micthell Starc and Josh Hazlewood who have eyewatering strike rates in Asia. The Aussies could bottle the Swepson call and play Ashton Agar instead as they have worries over their batting.

Possible XI: Khawaja, Warner, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Carey, Green, Cummins, Lyon, Hazlewood, Swepson

Pitch report

In two years since the pitch was installed at the National Stadium in Karachi in domestic cricket there’s no sign of a raging turner. Only 36% of wickets have fallen to spin. However, the conditions are different. Wickets are dryer and the weather is hotter in March.

We could see a classic Asian surface. So that means runs up front giving way to a surface which breaks up and offers more and more assistance to those spinner.

It is tempting to short Australia’s runs. In ‘Pindi they busted 300 for only the third time in eight at-tempts in Asia. It might be time to ignore that first Test and look at their historic stereotype for fumbling and bumbing their way to low scores against tweak. Bet their runs here

Draw price still of interest

Pakistan have shortened up to 2.407/5 as team – and pitch – changes are expected to make them far stronger. Australia are 3.002/1 with the stalemate 3.7511/4. Bet the match odds here

On the latter, any hint of easy runs in the first match innings and that will shorten quickly. The recency bias will take hold. We would certainly be happy to back-to-lay in the first match innings or, failing that, lay at around [the 2.407/5 mark.

Batting first Pakistan could shorten up to a shade above even money. It is likely to be difficult for the Aussies to hold on in the fourth.

It is worth remembering that even though it was a staid affair in game one, Pakistan took ten wickets and bowled with no luck. Australia’s bowlers took only three wickets in the match with one run out.

Tops value

Our standout wager is the 6/1 available about Fawad Alam top scoring for Pakistan in the first dig. We were surprised he didn’t even get a bat in Rawalpindi.

It’s a bet based purely on win rate. He has four wins in 13, a strike rate of 30%. That’s almost 16% points on implied probability in our favour.

We also love Faheem, who has two wins in nine. Although we’re disappointed he’s as short as 14s. He’s an in-play wager at twice that price.

Marnus Labuschagne is also solid at a Sportsbook-boosted 3/1 for top Australia first-innings bat. Steve Smith is 5/2. Bet Sportsbook markets here