We head into the first Test Match of the Australian summer without the usual fanfare and excitement, instead it is with a resigned resignation that we are up against a team that will be easy to beat. With a presumably more competitive series against New Zealand to follow, these first two Tests in Brisbane and Adelaide will act more like warm-up matches than as serious contests.
A cursory glance at recent encounters between the two sides shows that Pakistan do a whole lot better against Australia in their home away from home than in Australia in UAE. For the home team, they like playing at the Gabba more than any other ground.
Overall record: Played 64, Australia 31, Pakistan 15, drawn 18
Overall record in Australia: Played 35, Australia 24, Pakistan 4, drawn 7
Overall record at The Gabba: Played 5, Australia 4, Pakistan 0, drawn 1
Overall series record: Played 23, Australia 11, Pakistan 7, drawn 5
Overall series record in Australia: Played 12, Australia 9, Pakistan 0, drawn 3
Last five series
2018: Pakistan won 1-0 in UAE (two-Test series)
2016-17: Australia won 3-0 in Australia (three-Test series)
2014: Pakistan won 2-0 in UAE (two-Test series)
2010: Series drawn 1-1 in England (two-Test series)
2009-10: Australia won 3-0 in Australia (three-Test series)
Last five matches in Australia
Jan 3-7 2017: Australia won by 220 runs at the SCG
Dec 26-30 2016: Australia won by an innings and 18 runs at the MCG
Dec 15-19 2016: Australia won by 39 runs at the Gabba (D/N)
Jan 14-18 2010: Australia won by 231 runs at Bellerive Oval
Jan 3-6 2010: Australia won by 36 runs at the SCG
Last five matches at The Gabba
Dec 15-19, 2016: Australia won by 39 runs
Nov 5-9, 1999: Australia won by 10 wickets
Nov 9-13, 1995: Australia won by an innings and 126 runs
Nov 25-29, 1983: Match drawn
Nov 27 – Dec 1, 1981: Australia won by 10 wickets
As they say, numbers don’t lie, and those are some pretty terrifying numbers. Pakistan will be buoyed though, by the fact that they dominated an Australia A side in their warm-up match, getting 428 runs before they bowled Australia A out for just 122. While that side isn’t the Test side, it did include some of the Australian Test players. Most notably, Joe Burns (0 & 11) and middle-order batsman Travis Head (13 & 13 not out), neither of whom played in Australia’s last test match outing in England for the Ashes.
Australian XI (probable):
1. David Warner
2. Joe Burns
3. Marnus Labuschagne
4. Steve Smith
5. Travis Head
6. Matthew Wade
7. Tim Paine (c, wk)
8. Pat Cummins
9. Mitchell Starc
10. Nathan Lyon
11. Josh Hazlewood
The stars for Pakistan in that warm-up match, Babar Azam (157 retired) and Asad Shafiq (119 retired) are both likely to play the first test, though Imran Khan (5/32) and Iftikhar Ahmed (2/6 & 79 not out) may not.
Pakistan XI (probable):
1. Azhar Ali (c)
2. Shan Masood
4. Asad Shafiq
5. Babar Azam
6. Kashif Bhatti
7. Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
8. Yasir Shah
9. Mohammad Abbas
10. Shaheen Afridi
11. Naseem Shah
Pakistan are a chance, with Mohammad Abbas and Yasir Shah previously having terrorised Australia, but that was in very different conditions to those that they will face in the Gabba. Babar Azam may still shine, but the rest look likely to be a shadow of their former selves.
For Australia, many eyes will be on the performance of Joe Burns, who is returning to the Australian side after missing the entire Ashes campaign. As Burns watched on, first Cameron Bancroft and then Marcus Harris tried and failed, all while the returning David Warner also failed. Burns has had a decent Sheffield Shield season, but has hardly beaten down the door for selection. That said his selection makes more sense than the curious selection of Cameron Bancroft who has averaged just 11 since returning from England.
David Warner is interesting himself, having done tremendously well in the ODI World Cup, failing abysmally in the Ashes before being incredible in the Twenty/20 international series. Which David Warner will show up is up for speculation. He needs some good scores to show that he is not just a white ball player.
Travis Head is another one with a point to prove. He went from test certainty to dumped from the side in the middle of the Ashes, but is being given another chance.
Australia have indicated that they want to surpass India at the top of the World Test Championship, and, with a 2-test series against Pakistan, they could get 120 points in a matter of a few weeks and be straight up to 2nd place and in line to play against India in the decider. They won’t want to lose this one.
Prediction: Toss won’t matter, nor who bats first, or what team Pakistan brings out or anything else really. Australia will likely win by an innings, or 10 wickets, or 400 runs, or something equally as absurd, and it will be something of a miracle if it lasts all 5 days.