Pakistan's chance for redemption
Match FactsTuesday, July 13, Lord's
Start time 10:30am (0930 GMT)
The Big Picture
Six months after their disastrous tour of Australia, Pakistan have a chance to redeem themselves against Ricky Ponting's men. Things are a little different for Pakistan now: Shahid Afridi is in charge, Mohammad Yousuf is gone and the series is being played on neutral territory at Lord's and Headingley. Pakistan's batting looks thin, with Umar Akmal the only man in the top six who averages over 40, but their strong attack might thrive in the English conditions. There should be swing for Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Aamer and Umar Gul, but in order to snap Australia's winning streak of 12 consecutive Tests against Pakistan, the bowlers will need support.
Australia's stretch of victories against Pakistan goes all the way back to Brisbane in November 1999. It's a joint record winning run for any nation over any other nation, equalling the 12-game streak Sri Lanka currently hold over Bangladesh, and victory at Lord's will give Australia the outright all-time high. Not since November 1995 at the SCG have Pakistan beaten Australia in a Test, and although Afridi might provide them with a spark, the Australians remain strong favourites.
Australia will have two debutants, the wicketkeeper Tim Paine and the legspinning allrounder Steven Smith, but the core of their side remains the same. As much as the Australians will talk of being focused on this series, each of their four Tests between now and November also provides them with a chance to fine-tune their Ashes preparations. One move they will make in this series is Michael Clarke up to the No. 4 position, which reflects his importance as the team's leading run scorer over the past year, while Michael Hussey will drop down to No. 5.
Then there's also the chance to play a Test at Lord's, which is an opportunity that usually comes around only once every four years. Clarke is the only man from either side with his name on the honour board at Lord's and this might be the final chance for Ponting to earn such a place in history. On the eve of the match he didn't close the door on the possibility of being back for the 2013 Ashes, but nor did he rule out this being his last Lord's Test. "It would be nice to have been up there in an Ashes Test match," Ponting said of the honour board. "That might happen - we'll wait and see what happens there."
Watch out for...
There is much excitement about Australia's debutant Steven Smith, although nobody quite knows what to expect from him. Smith is being played as the primary spinner but Ponting thinks he has a lot of work to do in that aspect of his game. On the other hand, Pakistan have had a habit in recent years of gifting wickets to Australian spinners. Smith will also be one of the strongest No. 8 batsmen Australia have had in recent memory.
Shahid Afridi hasn't played a Test in four years, but as the new captain he will be the pulse of the Pakistan team. He brings energy to any match he plays and Ponting is keen to nullify his influence as quickly as possible. Ponting believes the younger Pakistan players will run off Afridi's spark but as the No. 6 batsman, second spinner and general in the field, he will have quite a workload.
There is no doubt over the make-up of Australia's XI and only a last-minute injury will allow Usman Khawaja, Steve O'Keefe or Peter George to win a baggy green. There will be three changes from the team that Pakistan met in Hobart, with Brad Haddin, Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle all out through injury. Ben Hilfenhaus is making his comeback from a long-term bout of knee tendonitis and should be useful in the swinging conditions. It is a side that bats deep; Mitchell Johnson at No. 9 is a luxury and Smith at No. 8 has four first-class centuries to his name.
Australia 1 Shane Watson, 2 Simon Katich, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Clarke, 5 Michael Hussey, 6 Marcus North, 7 Tim Paine (wk), 8 Steven Smith, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Ben Hilfenhaus, 11 Doug Bollinger.
Pakistan's top order remains something of a mystery, with Umar Amin, Azhar Ali, Yasir Hameed and Shoaib Malik potentially vying for two spots. There was talk that Pakistan were keen to try out some new faces, which would open the door for Amin and Azhar to make their Test debuts. From the side that lost in Hobart, Khurram Manzoor, Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Yousuf are gone, with Afridi recalled and Kamran Akmal back in favour with the gloves.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Salman Butt, 3 Umar Amin, 4 Azhar Ali, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Mohammad Aamer, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Danish Kaneria, 11 Mohammad Asif.
Pitch and conditions
The famous slope at Lord's can make things difficult for bowlers to adjust their lines, and if there is cloud around expect the ball to swing early. The pitch was under cover on the day before the Test, with the possibility of rain, and showers were also on the cards for Tuesday.
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan have not beaten Australia in a Test since November 1995
- This is the first neutral Test in England since 1912
- Ricky Ponting's record at Lord's is poor - he has 109 runs at 18.16 with a highest score of 42. It is his worst average at any venue where he has played at least three Tests
"The communication problem is not there any more now. We are all sitting together and talking to each other. If they have problems, they are coming to me or the coach and sharing their problems"
Shahid Afridi on the increased unity within his team
"He's probably got to bat at six in their side, so if we get some early wickets and get him in there against the newer ball and our quicks are still nice and fresh I think we'll test him out." Ricky Ponting on Afridi
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.