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Comment: Pakistan have beaten England, are Australia next?

The Roar logo The Roar 18-07-2016 Ronan O'Connell
Yasir Shah of Pakistan celebrates after dismissing Chris Woakes of England during day four of the 1st Investec Test between England and Pakistan at Lord's Cricket Ground. © Gareth Copley/Getty Images Yasir Shah of Pakistan celebrates after dismissing Chris Woakes of England during day four of the 1st Investec Test between England and Pakistan at Lord's Cricket Ground.

Pakistan yesterday recorded a resounding Test victory over England at Lord’s, a performance which confirms they will offer a major challenge in Australia this summer.

England’s brittle batting line-up twice was rolled cheaply by the multi-faceted Pakistan attack on a Lord’s deck which offered little to the bowlers for most of the Test.

Legspinner Yasir Shah finished the match with ten wickets, announcing himself as a bonafide superstar of the format.

With the world’s best spinner in Shah, a dynamic pace attack and prolific batsmen from three to seven in their order, Pakistan are well equipped to push the Australians. Particularly if the Australian pitches are again tailored for corporate interests, drained of any pace or bounce.

The slow, low Lord’s pitch on which Pakistan beat England by 75 runs was not dissimilar to the sleepy Test decks which have marred the past two Australian home seasons. Two summers ago, the touring Indian batsmen made merry on dry and utterly unresponsive Australian pitches.

This run hoarding was not capitalised on because of the limited talents of the Indian bowling attack, which so very rarely is effective on anything but dusty home decks. India do not have a single quality paceman, and their spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja are kings at home and paupers on the road.

While there was not one bowler in that Indian attack who had the ability to dictate the result of a Test in Australian conditions, Pakistan have two such bowlers. In Shah and left arm spearhead Mohammad Amir, Pakistan own two ballistic weapons.

We have already seen what Amir can do in Australian conditions. He was only 17 years old when he snared five wickets in the second dig of the 2009 Boxing Day Test, dismissing Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Marcus North and Brad Haddin.

Amir loves seaming conditions, as his wonderful Test record of 32 wickets at 21 in England suggests. He shapes as a nightmare opponent for the Australian batsmen in this summer’s day-night Test, which is expected to again feature a juicy green deck to help protect the fragile pink Kookaburra.

And Amir is not the kind of paceman who will be neutralised by lifeless decks. This is due to his unsettling pace, skill to swing the new and old ball in both directions, and ability to bowl equally well from over or around the wicket.

Yet it is Yasir, not Amir, who is the key to Pakistan’s chances of pushing Australia. He has the tricks and temperament to become the first spinner in many years to succeed in Australia.

Over the past three summers, decent opponents in New Zealand, India and England have been smashed in Australia. Each time, the touring spinners were treated with disdain by the Australian batsmen. It was a key element of Australia’s strategy each summer – to target the opposition spinner.

Last summer, Kiwi offie Mark Craig was so heavily scored against that it derailed New Zealand’s bowling plans and allowed their pacemen much less rest than they would have wished for. The same fate was met by former England tweaker Graeme Swann in 2013-14 and that, too, left England’s attack poorly balanced.

In these two series, Australia recognised the major threat was posed by their opponent’s pace battery. So hitting the spinner out of the attack caused those threatening bowlers to have return to the crease before they had recharged their batteries, rendering them less effective.

Australia will hope to do the same this summer, to try to exhaust the likes of Amir and fellow left armers Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz. The key difference is that Yasir is a wrist spinner, not an off spinner like Swann and Craig.

Visiting finger spinners have a horrendous record in Australia. Even the great Muttiah Muralitharan was cannon fodder down under. Because of the lack of turn or variable bounce offered by Australian pitches, spinners typically must be able to get a huge amount of work on the ball to be successful.

That is why wrist spinners, with their high revolutions, are better suited. Yasir gives the ball a serious rip, coaxing his deliveries to loop, drift and drop.

He ran amok against Australia in the UAE late in 2014, taking 12 wickets at 17 as the tourists were butchered 2-0. That was Yasir’s debut Test series. He now owns an utterly astonishing Test record of 86 wickets at 23 from a measly 13 Tests.

That is 6.6 wickets per Test. This extraordinary strike rate has him on target to potentially break George Lohmann’s 120-year-old record as the fastest bowler to 100 Test wickets, from just 16 matches. Despite these incredible figures, Yasir had not yet completely won over the cricket world prior to this series in England.

Many pundits and fans wanted to see how he would fare outside Asia, for the first time, before making a definitive call on his ability. It took just four days at Lord’s for Yasir to let the whole cricket world know that he is, without a doubt, the best spinner in Test cricket.

Never in history had a spinner from Asia taken ten wickets in a Test at Lord’s. And they were big wickets too, with eight of them being top seven batsmen. In the first innings, the ball barely turned for Shah yet he snared six wickets.

The very best spinners do not need assistance from the pitch as they already have defeated the batsman before the ball lands. So it was for Shah. Again and again. He is a wonderful bowler and a gigantic threat to Australia this summer.

United under the steady yet jovial leadership of Misbah ul-Haq, Pakistan look to be the real deal. They may stumble on seaming decks later in this series in England. But that will have little bearing on their chances of causing some upsets in Australia this summer.

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