Homework on playing spin pays off for Doolan
Alex Doolan is the first to admit that fancy footwork against the spinners does not come naturally to him. So when he shimmied down the pitch and lofted Raza Hasan over long-on for a huge six to bring up his hundred on the second day in Sharjah, it was a sign not only of his confidence but also of the work he has done against spin during the winter.
Always a classy player of pace, Doolan will be tested by Pakistan's spinners during the Tests in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with every possibility they may come on early in the innings. But his unbeaten 104 - he retired to allow the rest of the line-up some batting time - against Pakistan A has suggested he may enjoy the opportunity.
"I guess coming over to Dubai and the UAE to play against Pakistan, we assumed that we were going to come up against some fierce spin," Doolan said. "That was something that I spent a lot of time in that off-season working on and it seems to be paying off.
"It [footwork against spin] is probably something I have to concentrate a bit more on. Growing up in Australia, playing fast bowling was a bit more comfortable to me than actually playing spin bowling. It is something that I've focused on in the last four months and it seems to be working well."
Doolan combined with Steven Smith for a 106-run partnership that rescued Australia from a slightly shaky start as the pitch became a little easier to bat on during the afternoon. Smith, who has carried his outstanding form from the recent ODI series into this game, was fluent right from the beginning, against pace and spin.
"He's an exceptional player and looked to be batting on a different wicket today," Doolan said. "It's really pleasing for him to get some runs and continue his good form. It was pleasing for me to be in that partnership ... he's batting beautifully and has done now for probably the last 18 months."
Smith's form meant he was able to retire after reaching a half-century while Doolan, who was on the sidelines watching the one-day series, was given extra time in the middle to go on and reach triple figures. Making the most of his starts has not always been Doolan's strength, and this was his first century since making his Test debut in South Africa in February.
His winter included a number of good scores for Australia A in Brisbane and Darwin but there were no hundreds among them. He managed an unbeaten 91 against India A in a first-class match and 96 against the same team in a one-day game, but he said while it was pleasing to finally add another century to his list, his main objective was time at the crease.
"My goal going in was to spend a bit of time out in the middle, take the score out of the equation and just bat," Doolan said. "I was really pleased to spend a long period of time out in the sun and getting used to the conditions."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale