Captain Tim Paine said on Wednesday that Australia were wary of being “surprised” by Pakistan’s young pace attack, which could include 16-year-old sensation Naseem Shah, and admitted they had been studying as much footage as possible.
The home team go into the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane starting on Thursday as overwhelming favourites, with Pakistan having lost their last 12 five-day matches in Australia.
But the tourists’ attack has an element of the unknown, with not only Naseem tipped to make his debut but 19-year-old pacemen Shaheen Afridi and Musa Khan in the squad.
“We’ve prepared for all of them. That’s the thing with Pakistan, they have a lot of different options, a lot of skill and by the looks of it a fair bit of pace,” said Paine.
“So we’ve made sure we’ve looked at as much footage as possible of their pace attack, and their batters. What we don’t want is to go out there tomorrow at some stage and be surprised by something we see, whether that’s their spinner, their quicks or their batsmen. So we’ve done our research.”
Naseem, whose mother died last week, has only played seven first-class games, but impressed with a fiery eight-over spell against Australia A in Perth in the build-up.
Paine said he had played with 16-year-olds in club cricket, but never on such a big stage. “He looks like a really, really exciting talent,” he said. “Pakistan have got a knack of finding these young fast bowlers so it looks like they have another one to add to that rich history of fast bowlers that they seem to produce.”
Pakistan also boast the impressive Muhammad Abbas and veteran Imran Khan senior among their fast bowling arsenal while Yasir Shah is a prolific leg-spinner.
Reliance on Smith
They will be hoping to make quick inroads into the Australian top order in Brisbane, but face huge hurdles in knocking over David Warner and Steve Smith.
Smith carried his side in the recent Ashes series against England and Paine said he wanted to see the rest of the batsmen offer him more support against Pakistan.
“Probably during the Ashes we relied too heavily on Steve, so the rest of top seven are really keen to score a lot of runs,” he said. “Traditionally we love batting in Australia, we have had some real success on this ground, it’s a great ground to bat on if you can get in and spend a lot of time out there.”
Joe Burns, who scored a century in his last Test against Sri Lanka in February, is expected to open with Warner. Smith or Marnus Labuschagne will bat at number three, followed by Travis Head, Matthew Wade and Paine.
Coach Justin Langer echoed Paine’s call for more consistency from Australia’s batting line-up. “We’re number five in the world in Test cricket at the moment, and there’s reasons for that,” he said.
“One of them is that we don’t score 300-plus in the first innings enough. Our batters are very aware of that. We’re not going to shy away from that. It’s no secret. We know we’ve got to keep improving and I’m confident we will.”