Its epic chase of a 490-run target in the first of three Tests in Brisbane has lifted the morale in the Pakistan camp, suggested Grant Flower, the team’s batting coach, and though it lost that game by 39 runs, the team hoped to run with the momentum in the second Test of the series, starting in Melbourne on Monday.
Steven Smith was a relieved man as Australia managed to get over the line after the last five Pakistan wickets piled on 230 runs to get within sight of a world-record Test run chase.
Ahead of the Boxing Day Test, Flower said the Australians should expect another tough one on what is expected to be an abrasive drop-in pitch at Melbourne Cricket Ground, as Pakistan fights to level the series.
“The confidence they have gained since that last innings and that momentum will definitely help carry them on into this Test,” said Flower.
Australia dominated the first Test – a day-night affair – till late on the fourth day, after which Pakistan, led by Asad Shafiq, took charge.
There was a thought that the gruelling 145-over fourth-innings effort might have taken its toll on the Australian bowlers, and the selectors added Hilton Cartwright, the all-rounder, as backup to the main pacemen: Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird, with Chadd Sayers also in the 13-man squad and Nathan Lyon the first-choice spinner.
On Sunday, however, Australia named an unchanged XI, meaning Nic Maddinson will be given another opportunity to prove himself at No. 6 after scoring 0, 1 and 4 in his three Test innings to date, while Cartwright and Sayers missing out on making their debuts.
“We brought the all-rounder into the squad because the bowlers had a pretty heavy workload but they’ve pulled up well and they’re confident they can get through,” said Smith on the eve of the match.
“Obviously (Nic) hasn’t started the way he would have liked. I was really proud of him in the second innings in Brisbane to come out and do the thing for the team and try and score quick runs and have a crack.”
Pakistan has lost its last ten Tests in Australia, last winning at the MCG in 1981.