Why pace may be a weapon for Australia on Pakistan tour

Australia v England - 4th Test: Day 4
Australia v England - 4th Test: Day 4

Recent Test history suggests pace bowling will play a larger role than first anticipated in Australia's upcoming three-Test tour of Pakistan in March.

Australia are due to end a 24-year wait to visit Pakistan, ahead of Test tours to Sri Lanka in June-July and India next year.

The trio of subcontinental tours have been dubbed a chance to unleash and test the Aussie's spin bowling credentials, including the likely chance for Mitchell Swepson to make his Test debut.

But opting for a standard three-man pace attack may prove to be more advantageous in Pakistan, all the while not being a gross departure from a formula that is familiar to the Australians.

Mitchell Swepson is in a bubble within a bubble. And it’s not likely to get much better for the spinner before Australia heads to Pakistan next month, writes @BenHorne8…

In five Tests that Pakistan have hosted since their reintroduction to hosting international cricket in 2019 have seen fast bowlers take 89 wickets (at an average of just below 30), compared to 48 wickets from spinners (at just below 40).

The pacers have bowled 60 percent of the overs bowled across those five Tests, while also having a higher strike rate than spinners.

It is perhaps a statistical anomaly in comparison to the neighboring Asian nations, who have more characteristically favored the services of spin bowlers. Spinners have taken 258 wickets in recent Tests in India, compared to 150 taken by pace bowlers.

The most recent Test match to be played in India saw New Zealand's spin bowler Ajaz Patel take all 10 wickets in an innings.

Only the third bowler to claim all 10 wickets in an innings in the history of Test cricket 🔥Take a bow, Ajaz Patel! #WTC23 | #INDvNZ |

During the same period in Sri Lanka, pace bowlers have taken 65 wickets at an average of 37, while spinners have claimed 179 scalps at 31.5.

Former Test and ODI batter Bazid Khan recently said that playing in Pakistan is totally different to playing in India.

The cricketer-turned-commentator told

"The general perception, which I think is wrong, is … there's going to be two spinners in the game and it's going to spin all the way through. Pakistan is totally different to India. The ball is not going to spin straight away and mostly the wickets have been taken by the faster men rather than the spinners. I think if you don't have two world-class spinners, you don't play them here."

He noted that Pakistan have bowled teams out quickly once the ball starts to reverse swing, with Shaheen Afridi taking the most wickets of any fast bowler in 2021 - 47 wickets from nine matches.

Australian selector Tony Dodemaide admits his side are not familiar with conditions in Pakistan, given the length of time between tours.

But Cameron Green's rise to stardom with the ball during the 2021-22 Ashes series provides the Australians with the flexibility to play two spinners with a lower risk of the move backfiring.

Green has taken nine wickets at an average of 15.44 this summer, including key scalps of England batters Ben Stokes and Joe Root. Just under a third of his 64 overs bowled in the series have been maidens, while he regularly nudges the 140 kmph mark.

Australia will nonetheless be assured of the versatility of their fast bowling stocks, having unveiled an unlikely hero in Scott Boland, along with the possibility of calling up Jhye Richardson and Michael Neser.

Josh Hazelwood should be fit in time for the tour after suffering a side strain in the first Test this summer, while Pat Cummins will of course lead the side on tour.

Selectors will, in due course, reveal which pace bowlers will make the trip to Pakistan.

Australia v England - 3rd Test: Day 3
Australia v England - 3rd Test: Day 3

The two sides are due to play three Tests in Karachi (March 3-7), Rawalpindi (March 12-16) and Lahore (March 21-25), before three ODIs in Lahore (March 29, March 31, April 2) and a T20I in Lahore (April 5).

Cricket Australia CEO Nick Hockley said this week "the absolute plan is to go" to Pakistan as officials still consider security elements of the tour. He said:

"At this stage I feel like we're in really good shape. Everyone's committed to going ... as long as it's safe to do so. The historical significance of this tour cannot be underestimated."

Usman Khawaja, who was born in Pakistan, has urged his side to take part in the tour.

🗣 "You can inspire a generation of cricketers!" – Usman Khawaja on Australia's scheduled tour of Pakistan. 💯#PAKvAUS | #Cricket

In a Sydney Morning Herald report, Australian Cricketers' Association chief Todd Greenberg assured the players that "he would travel to Pakistan with the squad" and would be fine with "one or two players" opting not to take the trip.

Edited by Samya Majumdar

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