Mohammad Abbas had a stellar series when Australia and Pakistan squared off in two Test matches last year. While the hype before the series was all about tackling Yasir Shah, it was Abbas who single handedly destroyed the opposition with 17 wickets to his name.
Abbas is not your typical in your face fast bowler. He operates on around 130 kph and is always challenging the forward defence of a batsman. He can move the new ball both ways off the seam and bowls that slightly fuller length where it is hard for batsmen to make an adjustment once committed to one line.
Now, if you look at the wickets he picked up in the UAE against right-handed batsmen, they were mostly bowled or leg-before wickets (80%), which means he bowled a straight line and attacked the stumps. In case of left-handers, he moved the ball away from over or round the wicket, challenging their outside edge.
With the new ball, he can get the ball to move off the deck which is a fine skill to have. It is extremely hard to adjust to that sort of bowling if the right length is bowled. With a slightly used ball, he generally moves the ball back into the right handers which can be lined up with the right sort of alignment.
If you look at the dismissals of the right-handers in the Australian line-up, their balance wasn’t as great as their heads were tipping over to the off-side. Ideally, if you step to play a forward defensive, your head and eyes should be dead level. Consider you’re in a position where you’re playing a forward defence. If you drop a ball straight from your nose, you want it to hit the toe. If you do it successfully, your head is in a good position and in line with the front foot.
Classic examples of head falling over
So what can the Aussies do to tackle Mohammad Abbas?
When he is bowling with the new ball, he will move it off the seam. Batsmen can try and step out of their crease to counter any sort of movement he gets. That will put him off his length and force to do something else. They can also think of may be altering their guards and trigger movements and try and get outside the line of off-stump to take away leg-before out of the equation. Because he doesn’t have express pace with him, the tactics of getting outside the crease can work. Jos Buttler did that brilliantly when Pakistan toured England in 2018. Some of the batsmen like Mitchell Marsh and Travis Head were caught on the crease against him, which is not a great way of handling him. Decisive footwork is the key principle of batting.
When the ball is slightly older and the seam gets flatter, more or less, he will swing the ball in one direction. So in case of right-handed batsmen, if the ball darts back in, the left foot [front foot] should not point towards extra cover or touch squarer, as it locks the lower half and the upper body has to compensate really hard to make up for that movement. They can consider opening up their stance [or stay a bit leg-side of the ball] and push their heads down the wicket to prevent themselves from falling across the stumps.
If he goes round-the-wicket to left-handers, he will try and swing the ball away and nick you off from a fuller length. In that case, put him off his length by walking at him and if that doesn’t suit someone’s game, try and play down the line of the stumps and if the ball does swing away, hold the line and not follow it.