Pakistan will be facing Australia in a two-match Test series which starts from November 21 at Brisbane. There has been a lot of talk about the sub-continent batsmen facing challenges of adapting themselves on the hard, bouncy tracks in Australia. So, let’s take a look at some of the Pakistan batsmen and analyze their strengths and weaknesses.
Shan’s Test career has been a stop start ride so far. He has been in and out of the Pakistan Test side, but he impressed on Pakistan’s tour of South Africa earlier this year. He did a lot of technical work with Gary Palmer, a freelance batting coach who has worked with the likes of Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Dominic Sibley.
His stance, trigger movements have changed. In his trigger movements, he goes back and across with his back foot which, in turn, unweights his front foot. So, to play a front foot drive, he makes one final movement into the ball rather than pressing first, and then making a final stride. His play against the short ball was impressive on South Africa tour primarily because he stood more upright and got his hands higher and above the bounce of the ball so that he could hit on top of the bounce and play it along the ground.
Being an opening batsmen, he will be tested with some short stuff but a potential area of concern will be to own that area in front of his front pad.
Abid Ali is yet to receive his Test cap but so far in his international career, he has showed that his technique is decent and repetitive. He can drive the ball beautifully off the front foot and is extremely strong off his pads. He has also shown that he can play off the back foot through the off-side when given any sort of width which is a good sign as well.
He doesn’t have any sort of trigger movements with his feet, which is purely an individual thing. Just before the ball is about to be delivered, he squats and gets into a ready position, like a boxer, getting set for a duel. It will be interesting to see what guard he takes against the likes of Hazlewood and Cummins as he generally stays leg-side of the ball which can threaten the outside edge sometimes. Hazlewood, in particular, is relentless with his lines and lengths and can hammer away on that lovely in-between length all day long.
The other part yet to be seen is his play against the short ball. Good batsmen have a solid defensive plan against the short ball (duck, sway, back foot defence). While playing off the back foot, he gets forward initially (might be an instinctive movement), and then transfers his weight back. It will be important for him to not get too side on with the initial press when the ball is aimed at his body.
Yet to make a significant impact in red-ball cricket, this will be one great opportunity for him to stamp his authority against a quality pace attack. He impressed in Pakistan’s Test match against Ireland with a gritty 74 in tough conditions. Imam has three fifties and is yet to score a hundred in Tests.
His strengths include strong play off the front foot and off his pads. His stance, back-lift is quite orthodox and keeps his hands low and close in to his body. Against the moving ball, he can sometimes commit too early and play across his front pad. He can sometimes run out of patience and flash hard at wide balls, which again is a big no for any Test match opener.
Once again, his defensive game on the back foot will be tested thoroughly. He has been bounced out by Lockie Ferguson twice which means short ball will be on his mind. His low hands might restrict his ability to keep the ball along the ground when playing the pull or hook, which, in turn, might rob him of the control on the shot in the big grounds of Australia. But again, it is up to the batsmen to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and stick to their game plan.
Probably one of the most established Test batsman in this side, Azhar has been the mainstay of Pakistan’s batting for quite few years now. He had a magnificent run when Pakistan last toured Australia in 2016. His balance looked much better due to certain tweaks, and he drove the ball magnificently down the ground. Against Starc’s left-arm angle added with in-swing, Azhar drove the ball back past him (to his right hand side) which meant that he had stuffed up the angles quite well.
In the past, Azhar had to battle out the old adage of a batsman falling across his stumps. Because batsmen stand side-on to the bowler, they are vulnerable to falling across as the natural movement is towards there. Azhar had to battle it out during the England tour last year as he would cross over with his feet. To straighter balls, his feet would often cross over i.e. front foot would fall across and point towards extra cover whereas the upper body (chest) would face the bowler, trying to compensate for the bad footwork patterns.
He admitted in an interview with Cricingif that straighter balls were causing him all sorts of trouble and this is something which Australia will be looking very closely at. If he can fight it through and get back in his rhythm, then Australia should better watch out!
Babar Azam is probably one of the most improved batsmen in this batting line-up since the last Australia tour (in 2016). He is a beautiful timer of the cricket ball, both off the front and back foot. His trigger movements include a slight shuffle across his stumps, keeping his dead level and feet slightly in an open position.
Also Read: How do you cope with the moving ball?
Adding more backlift: Babar on the left (in 2016) and on the right (2019)
The last time he toured Australia, he was slightly more crouched, batted with low hands and had a very less negative movement of his shoulders, which would sometimes lead to using a lot of bottom hand in the shots and ‘squaring up’ (playing out in front of the eyes). Now, his balance looks much better, his hands are a bit higher in his stance and is playing the ball a lot later because of adding more back-lift. At the moment, there isn’t any obvious weakness in his game.
Haris is still finding his feet in Test cricket. So far in his short Test career, he has done a decent job. Although the Australia tour will be a different challenge for him. He didn’t have a great T20I series and came under the firing line after batting at a slow pace. Australia bowled straighter and harder length at him as he tried to take the attack on but lacked proper execution.
He squats very low at the crease and has his hands low in his stance. His trigger movements are a double press – a slight forward and across movement of his front foot and then moving his back foot, aligning himself well to hit the ball back where it comes from. His footwork patterns are a bit similar to Marcus Trescothick – both of them don’t have big strides. It’s more about getting the alignment, balance and weight transfer right.
Australia will have a look at two things: They will push him back with some short stuff and then dish out a sucker punch – full and wide ball to test out his patience. The other thing is that how well can he play the short ball. One thing that I noticed during the Australia A game is that he gets his bat out in a periscope position when ducking under the short ball. The other thing is obviously his defensive play against short pitched bowling. Also, can he pull the ball effectively if the bowlers are smart enough to deny him any sort of width outside off stump and have a fielder behind square on the leg-side for a dink round the corner?
Asad Shafiq is another vital cog in the Pakistan batting line-up. He has shown decent form in the two practice matches which is surely a good sign for Pakistan. He is extremely prolific through the point region and likes to play off the back foot. With a slightly shorter front foot stride, Australia are likely to test him out on the fuller length. He has a slight technical glitch of falling across his stumps which made him vulnerable to straighter balls from wider on the crease. So when he sets up in his stance, his upper body leans on his bat which means his weight goes across to point.