Australia seek desert glory; Fakhar eyes Test cap

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The first Test reinforced a few age-old lessons about cricket in the UAE: dead as the tracks may appear to be, do not jump the gun until both sides have batted once. It may all look dull and dreary halfway into the Test, but a blink and the game springs to life when you least expect it to. Pakistan would certainly vouch for it. Just when statisticians and pundits had begun to check for record double-century opening stands, Australia collapsed dramatically.
The collapse handed the advantage to Pakistan, but they weren’t in the mood to take it. A decision to bat on didn’t do them any favours. This has now added to the scrutiny around Sarfraz Ahmed’s captaincy, and nothing but a Test win in Abu Dhabi can sooth a bruised side that is yet to win a Test in UAE in over two years. There isn’t a better time to reverse that, for it would at least give their beleaguered captain some breathing space after a spate of ordinary results, including the ones at the Asia Cup last month.
Australia are just beginning to wriggle out of a crisis under a new leadership group. Justin Langer, the head coach, has been quite vocal about the need to not just be satisfied with what they’ve achieved so far. This tour has been in the making for three months now, and has its roots in India, where they played a stream of matches against the A sides of South Africa and India. They’ve even managed to integrate two young Indian domestic spinners into the set up to help prepare them for Tests on dry turners.
Visualisation techniques, spin lessons, simulation, matches – they’ve all been checked. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and if Dubai was anything to go by, Australia have shown they’re up for a fight. Langer will expect much more from his boys if they are to move to the next level and for that, the rest of the batsmen have to show the resolve of Usman Khawaja and captain Paine. This could in many ways direct the course the team takes ahead of a big home summer against India.
Fakhar Zaman has played just two first-class games since the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final in 2016-17 that brought him into national reckoning. Since then, he’s built a reputation of white-ball destroyer. At the Asia Cup last month, he struggled from what coach Mickey Arthur called a ‘confidence crisis.’ He’s had two weeks to rejuvenate. A finger injury to Imam-ul-Haq means he’s set to receive his maiden Test cap.
In that final, he made a quickfire 170 not out. Now, against a potent Australia attack, he may have to shelve some of his flamboyance. Can he display another facet to his game?