Australians done by spin, reverse swing
Michael Clarke said before Australia's warm-up match that spin and reverse swing would be the dominant forces in the Test series. Not much seems to have changed after Australians were beaten by 153 runs by Pakistan A in Sharjah.
Raza Hasan picked up three wickets with his left-arm spin in the second innings, including two from consecutive deliveries, and reverse swing played its part through the middle as well, as fast men like Rahat Ali and Mohammad Talha got the ball to move in the air. Phillip Hughes, the only man to score a half-century in Australia's innings, said Rahat's reverse had cost him his wicket.
"Going forward we're going to know spin is going to play a big part as well as reverse swing, so they're probably the two biggest things [we got out of the game]," Hughes said. "It was probably what got me out. When the quicks came back on for their second spells, that's when it started reversing.
"It's more [difficult] when you start your innings against reverse swing. That's probably the toughest challenge for the middle-order batsmen. When you're batting out there, it slowly gradually starts reversing. Unfortunately today personally I didn't go on and get that big one, which I should have."
Hughes edged behind on 65 but he had spent enough time at the crease to show that his work against spin has improved since last year's Test tour of India, where he struggled tremendously in the turning conditions. Hughes was happy to sweep both Raza and the legspinner Karamat Ali, and pounced on the pull when they dropped short.
"When the ball's spinning in, I feel quite comfortable sweeping and also using your feet," Hughes said. "It was nice to spend some time in the middle against a couple of quality spinners."
Although Hughes is unlikely to play in the first Test in Dubai, he enjoyed the opportunity to open in both innings in Sharjah, with David Warner resting his injured groin ahead of the Test. The Australians chopped and changed their batting order and used 15 members of their squad in the Sharjah game, and Hughes said there were positives despite the loss.
"The huge positive is a lot of guys got a good run-around in the last four days," he said. "Everyone's had a bit of a crack at different roles so that's a real plus for everyone in the change room.
"[Pakistan A] bowled very well over both innings. With their spin they bowled well and their reverse swing today, we've seen that with their second spells coming back. The quicks bowled very well. That's something we're going to have to look in to."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale