Pakistan farce gives Langer spin headache
AUSTRALIA'S hopes of pulling off a morale-boosting win in their first Test series under Justin Langer have been sabotaged by Pakistan's decision to roll out a questionable side for the tour's only warm-up match.
No frontline spinners have been selected in the Pakistan A side ahead of the two-Test series, in a pointed decision designed to destroy Australia's preparation.
Australia were routed by Pakistan 2-0 in their last tour in the UAE, with spin proving their undoing as Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah combined to take 26 wickets in the Test demolition.
Shah and Brisbane Heat's teenage leg-spin sensation Shadab Khan are the danger men this time around, with spin again expected to play an enormous part in the two Tests in the UAE - the first beginning on October 7.
Australia selected three specialist spinners in their 15-man squad and Langer is likely to deploy the spin duo of Nathan Lyon and Jon Holland in the opening Test, with left-armer Ashton Agar in the mix to add a third frontline spin option in an all-rounder role.
However, any plans his under-fire batsmen had of readying themselves for Pakistan's spin mastery have been thrown into disarray by a comical decision by the home side to shield Australia from any frontline spinners in the tour's only practice match.
The four-day first-class match against Pakistan A starts on Saturday at the ICC Academy, with veteran batsman Asad Shafiq leading a squad that boasts Test-capped players Usman Salahuddin, Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali.
It is not uncommon for touring teams to face weakened second XI line-ups - and often on pitches that aren't similar to those on which the Test series will be played.
In India last year, Australia were treated to a flat wicket in Mumbai in their warm-up - with uncapped youngster Shreyas Iyer blasting a double century a week out from the opening Test, where curators offered a raging turner on a Pune dust bowl.
Australia were themselves accused of trying to derail England's Ashes hopes over summer, with former England captain Michael Vaughan slamming the quality of opposition selected in warm-up matches.
In England's first match they played an inexperienced Western Australian XI captained by talented, but injury-prone, quick Nathan Coulter-Nile - while their second produced a victory for the tourists by 192 runs against an Australian outfit largely boasting players yet to make their first-class debuts.
PAKISTAN A SQUAD:
Sami Aslam, Abid Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Asad Shafiq (capt), Usman Salahuddin, Saad Ali, Agha Salman, M Rizwan (wk), Waqas Maqsood, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Aamer Yami, Umaid Asif and Saud Shakeel.