Tough fight on cards as Pakistan-Australia meet in first Test

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By  our correspondent

RAWALPINDI: After 24 years wait, Pakistan and Australia resume Test battle in Pakistan with Babar Azam and Pat Cummins set to lead their sides in the first Test of the three-match Benaud-Qadir ICC World Test Championship series match at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium from Friday.

Both sides have spent the last two days preparing for the Test at the venue in three-hour long, training, fielding and nets session of great intensity and quality. Both sides are full of world-class players and proven Test performers that have made their names across formats around the world. For Pakistan Babar Azam, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan are going to shoulder batting responsibilities while Australia possess batters like Steve Smith, David Warner, Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne.

Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan are going to provide real ammunition to Pakistan’s varied bowling attack while Australia have in their ranks some of the best current bowlers like Cummins, Mitchel Starc, Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon.

The two sides have kept a close eye on the Rawalpindi pitch which has a tradition of being a sporting one, the last Test played at the venue was Pakistan’s 95-run triumph against South Africa almost a year ago. Since the return of Test cricket in Pakistan in December 2019, this will be the fourth Test at the venue. The 2020 Pakistan-Sri Lanka match ended in a draw. Both captain are eagerly looking forward to the historic series as they feel the two sides are set to produce quality cricket that will provide rich entertainment to Test cricket fans around the world especially the home crowd that has been starved of quality Test cricket for a long time.

“It is a huge honour to play this series since the trophy has been named after legends of the game Richie Benaud and Abdul Qadir. As a team we are very excited that Australia are touring after 24 years, we want to make this a memorable series and the entire squad remains focused and determined to deliver the goods,” Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said..

“Our fans have been a strength of ours in the recent past, they have come to cheer us, shown their love and support through social media and have backed us by watching us on their TV screens. My request would be for them to turn up at the venue and give us full backing and support.

Australia’s skipper Pat Cummins is so excited for the series. “Richie toured here for the first time some 60 years ago, we are proud to be here in Pakistan and can’t wait for the series to start. “This is a very special occasion as we have a long history of playing against Pakistan back home and never over here, a whole generation of Australian cricketers haven’t had the chance of being over here and play so as a group we feel very privileged and lucky to be here, we have been incredibly looked after and it is beautiful here, we can’t wait for the series to start.”

Squads

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain) (Central Punjab), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain) (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Abdullah Shafique (Central Punjab), Azhar Ali (Central Punjab), Fawad Alam (Sindh), Iftikhar Ahmed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan), Mohammad Wasim Jnr (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Naseem Shah (Central Punjab), Nauman Ali (Northern), Sajid Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Saud Shakeel (Sindh), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Shan Masood (Balochistan) and Zahid Mahmood (Sindh)

AustraliaPat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner

Match officials: Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza (on-field), Asif Yaqoob (third umpire), Rashid Riaz (fourth umpire); Ranjan Madugalle (match referee)