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September 29, 2018

Pakistan prepare for Lyon threat


September 29, 2018

DUBAI: Pakistan are hands down favourites to beat a depleted Australian team in their two-Test series in Dubai and Abu Dhabi next month.

Even back in 2014 – when Australia last came to the UAE for a two-Test series with a full-strength squad – the Pakistanis hammered them for a 2-0 triumph.This time the Australians are without several of their key players including Steve Smith and David Warner.

It’s a bleak scenario for Australia but the Pakistanis aren’t taking anything for granted.They are well aware of the fact that the Australians, now in a rebuilding phase, would be hungry for success. They also know that the Aussies have three spinners including the ‘world class’ Nathan Lyon in their line-up.

That was the reason why one saw Asad Shafiq – one of Pakistan’s key batsmen – opting for an extended stay in the nets here at the ICC Academy on Friday. He was facing local spinners trying to bowl with an ugly, Lyon-type action one after the other.

“He (Asad) is getting ready for Nathan Lyon,” Pakistan ‘A’ manager told me as we watched Asad in action.Later Asad, who will be leading the Pakistan ‘A’ team in their four-day game against the visiting Australians, confirmed that he was preparing for Lyon challenge.

“Look, Lyon is a world class bowler. And they also have two more specialists spinners so it’s good to do your homework,” he told ‘The News’ in an interview. “Then they (Australia) have a world class fast bowler in Mitchell Starc.”

Asad, 32, is happy with his personal form going into the two-Test series which will get underway in Dubai from October 7.Earlier this month, he scored a double century playing for SNGPL against Islamabad.

“Scoring that double century has boosted by confidence. I’ve been making some runs in domestic cricket after being out of action for around six weeks because of a surgery.

“I’ve had a couple of good practice sessions here and this match (against Australia) starting tomorrow will help me further. I’m confident of doing well in the forthcoming series and hope to win matches for my team.”

While the Australians would be looking to gain much-needed practice, Asad stressed that his team’s target is to win the match.“We’ve been working really hard in this heat. I must tell you that all this hard work is not just to get practice from this four-day match. Our target will be to go all out and win it.”

When Pakistan last defeated Australia here in a two-Test series back in 2014, their batting stars were Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. The duo took the Aussie attack to sword as spinners Yasir Shah and Zulfiqar Babar guided them to victory.

Misbah and Younis have retired and now the onus would be on opener Azhar Ali and Asad to bolster Pakistan’s otherwise inexperienced batting line-up.“I know that there is going to be bigger responsibility on Azhar Bhai and I. Those two were legends of Pakistan cricket. Now we will have to deliver and give our best.”

Pakistan would need to overcome the hangover of their embarrassing exit from the Asia Cup where they lost back-to-back games against India before crashing in a must-win match against Bangladesh.

Asad is confident that the momentum would shift soon.“Winning and losing is part of the game. It will take just one match to shift the momentum. It’s our home ground we know the conditions well. Our strength will be our spin and I’m confident we are going to win.”

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