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July 20, 2010
Match FactsWednesday, July 21, Headingley
The Big Picture
Oh Pakistan, what will you come up with next? After the tour of Australia, life bans were handed out and overturned before the team had even played its next Test, and now it has lost its new captain to retirement after one match. Admittedly, Shahid Afridi wasn't exactly in a Test-match state of mind, but it will be a huge challenge for Salman Butt to take over the reins for the first time as well as be Pakistan's most important batsman. Butt was described during that trip to Australia as "a little lazy runner" by the then leader Mohammad Yousuf, and we will soon find out whether he has the respect of the rest of his team-mates. His vice-captain is Kamran Akmal, who was dropped two Tests ago. Go figure.
For Australia things are considerably more stable. Since Pakistan last beat Australia in a Test, in November 1995, Australia have had four Test captains and Pakistan have had 12, soon to become 13. Still, Ricky Ponting is in charge of a side that had two debutants at Lord's and the team has handed out 17 baggy green caps since the start of 2008. By the standards of Australian cricket, that's Pakistan-like instability. However, things are coming together for Ponting six months out from another Ashes series and his men have won their last seven Tests.
There are some areas Australia will hope to improve at Headingley. In the first Test, Australia gathered 11 wickets via the bowling of their top six batsmen, thanks to Shane Watson and Marcus North. That means the strike bowlers have plenty of room to lift while some key batsmen, including Ponting himself, also struggled at Lord's.
Watch out for...
Simon Katich may not put backsides on seats like Ricky Ponting, but he's been a more consistent contributor than Australia's captain over the past two years. Katich's 80 and 83 at Lord's continued a remarkable run for the opener; he has made at least a half-century in each of his past nine Tests. The longest equivalent streak that Don Bradman ever achieved was seven Tests, although that is a little misleading. An ankle injury prevented Bradman from batting in either innings at The Oval in 1938; take that match out of the list and Bradman had a minimum of a half-century in 13 consecutive Tests in which he batted.
Salman Butt has a terrific record against Australia, averaging 47.14 against them in Tests compared to an overall career mark of 32.75. He was the joint Man of the Match with Katich at Lord's for his 63 and 92, but now he must balance the captaincy with his own performance. Pakistan can barely afford for his batting to drop off at all; none of their other batsmen managed a half-century in the first Test.
Australia have had a couple of worries over the past few days with Ben Hilfenhaus managing a sore shoulder, while Marcus North sat out of training on Monday due to an illness. It is likely that both men will be passed fit, which would mean an unchanged side from the team that won by 150 runs in the first Test. Should either Hilfenhaus or North fail to prove their health, the fast bowler Peter George or the batsman Usman Khawaja would be in line for a debut.
"He didn't train yesterday," Ricky Ponting said of Hilfenhaus before training on Tuesday. "He just came down and ran some laps, with the expectation that he's going to have to bowl four or five overs today. He has come along really well. We were all a bit worried about him immediately after the Lord's game. He woke up the next morning particularly sore but he's improved a lot. We'll push him today and we expect that he'll be right to play.
"[North has] been a little bit ill but I think everyone in his family has had it the last couple of days and got over it pretty quickly. I'd expect him to train today and be okay for the game."
Australia (possible) 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.
The retirement of Afridi leaves a position available at No. 6 and Shoaib Malik would be the logical replacement as a batsman who can bowl useful overs of spin. However, there is also talk of a change to the attack, with Saeed Ajmal possibly in line for his sixth Test at the expense of Danish Kaneria.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Salman Butt (capt), 3 Umar Amin, 4 Azhar Ali, 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Mohammad Aamer, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Asif.
Pitch and conditions
Overcast conditions helped the swing bowlers at Lord's and that could be the case again at Headingley. There is some rain forecast for the second and third days.
Stats and trivia
"We don't know what to make of him as captain. I thought he played really well last game - that's as well as I've seen him bat."
Ricky Ponting on Salman Butt
"I told them the best thing to do is leave the ball outside off stump and the short ball."
Ijaz Ahmed, the Pakistan assistant coach who made 141 in a Headingley Test, has been giving some advice to his batsmen.