Ed Hawkins previews the first Test from Brisbane in the early hours of Thursday as Pakistan prepare to take risks
"Pat Cummins is 9/4 favourite for top Australia bowler. He won the man of the match against Sri Lanka this year. There's a seven-point edge on win rate"
Australia v Pakistan
Thursday 21 November, 00:00
Live on BT Sport 2
Happy at home
Australia, emboldened by a 2-2 draw in the Ashes, will feel confident of an easy series victory here. On hard and fast home wickets, the technical foibles which England were able to expose in every player bar Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are irrelevant.
David Warner, for example, should return to runmaking. There is no Stuart Broad, no Dukes ball, little lateral movement.
What might not be irrelevant is the decision-making of Tim Paine. Quite how he has not suffered more criticism for his baffling decision to bowl first at The Oval and hand England the victory chance is a mystery. Retain...blah...blah. We're interested in wins, losses. Australia let down an army of backers in south London.
But even he should be capable of shepherding Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon a - terrific bowling attack - to the spoils.
Probable XI: Warner, Burns, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Wade, Paine, Cummins, Starc, Hazlewood, Lyon.
Pakistan love a chaos theory. So the likely decision to include 16-year-old pacer Naseem Shah for a debut is right up their street. In truth, they probably need something leftfield.
With coach Mikey Arthur departed, their ability to be disciplined and sensible is surely reduced, particularly as new coach Misbah-ul-Haq has had an inauspicious start. Naseem will be come the youngest Test debutant. He gets it down at good height and pace and has a lovely shape on the ball.
Whether that's enough in Australia remains to be seen. As discussed in Cricket...Only Bettor this week, one suspects that their bowling stocks are little too seam and swing dependant. As we know, the Kookaburra ball does not bend for long.
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So although Mohammad Abbas and Shaheen Shah Afridi are easy on the eye, they might not get much assistance - needed - through the air.
Babar Azam, batting at No 4, is hyped as the next big thing. He sure can play, although Azhar Ali, captain, might have bigger grounds for support on the markets.
Possible XI: Masood, Azhar, Sohail, Babar, Shafiq, Iftikhar, Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Abbas, Afridi, Naseem.
Australia should go big https://btfr.co/165070983
In the last 11 Tests at The Gabba the first-innings average is 365. Australia are reliable here for runs. In four of the last six they have scored at least 400. England made 302 first up in 2017 and got beat by ten wickets. Sri Lanka, as you would expect, were rolled for 144 in January. It would not be in the least surprising if the same fate befell Pakistan.
Hosts tough to beat batting first
Australia are no better than 1/41.24. Fair enough. They have not lost in Brisbane since 1988 against the West Indies. Not surprisingly, Pakistan's record is not good. They lost by 39 runs in 2016, ten wickets in 1999, an innings and 126 in 1995.
It is hard to consider them worthy of support even if they have the chance to bat first. They have won only four times in 35 attempts in their history Down Under. They are 8/19.0 and the draw is 10/111.0.
Just back Pat
Smith, who top scored in the first dig in every Test he played in the Ashes, is 6/4 with Sportsbook to top score in the first dig. But Warner will be a fancy here at 3s. Both men, of course, play their first home Tests since the bans for ball tampering. Both have exemplary runmaking records at the venue - Smith 575 in five, Warner 663 in seven. The reliable Labuschagne is 9/2.
Babar is 2/1 favourite for top Pakistan bat. There's analysis here over whether that's a bet or not. Azhar is 7/2. Also a word for Asad Shafiq at 4s. Durable and well-organised he should be able to frustrate Australia.
Pat Cummins is 9/4 favourite for top Australia bowler and he won the man of the match against Sri Lanka this year. There's a seven-point edge on win rate. Naseem is 5/1 for honours on debut but Yasir Shah is the man who catches the eye at 7/2.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l