Abbas leads Pakistan's pace advantage | cricketnetwork.com

Abbas leads Pakistan's pace advantage

11 October 2018

Skill not speed is doing the damage for Pakistan's unlikely pace sensation

The measures Australia were willing to take to find reverse swing earlier this year this have been the subject of endless discussion, but their failure to match Pakistan's skill with it this week has been a key factor in their stuttering performance in Dubai.

A devastating spell from unlikely pace sensation Mohammad Abbas on the first Test's fourth day saw Australia's already flimsy grip on the match loosen further as Pakistan went to stumps needing a further seven wickets for victory.

The right-armer single-handedly oversaw Australia's collapse of 3-0, removing Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and Mitch Marsh in the space of seven balls.

Abbas with the wicket of Shaun Marsh // Getty
Abbas with the wicket of Shaun Marsh // Getty

In just his ninth Test, Abbas now needs just one more scalp to become the fastest Pakistani quick to reach 50 wickets.

His success at Test level has taken many by surprise. In Pakistan's momentous victory over England at Lord's earlier this year, Abbas was identified as the game's slowest seam bowler. He took eight wickets for the match. In this Test, Australia's three fast bowlers, each of whom are taller and faster than the wiry Pakistani, have managed four wickets between them. Abbas already has seven.

He played an integral role in Australia's startling first-innings collapse of 10-60, taking 4-29 from 19 overs (almost half of which were maidens) in a spell that confounded former Test batsman and national selector Mark Waugh.

"He's a good bowler, don't get me wrong but he's not a 140-145 (kilometres per hour) bowler," Waugh told Fox Cricket.

"If you've got a guy who's bowling low 130s (kph) swinging it reverse … that should not be getting you out, you should not get 4-29.

"He didn’t actually swing it both ways, he just swung into the right-handers and away from the left-handers … Abbas should not get 4-29 bowling at that pace."

Day wrap: Horror batting collapse for Australia

Australia did get the ball to reverse swing in Pakistan's first innings and Peter Siddle in particular used it to good effect to arrest their opponents' momentum late on the game's first day.

But Mitchell Starc, undoubtedly one of the game's most dangerous old-ball bowlers on his day, managed just the one wicket (No.11 Yasir Shah) through 42.2 economical overs.

While Starc and Siddle's lack of bowling in Pakistan's second innings (they sent down just eight overs between them) may have had more to do with not overcooking them given Australia is so far behind in the game, Abbas proved the fast men can be as much of a threat as spinners on a deteriorating subcontinental pitches.

"A lot of people say he doesn't have that much pace," Abbas' teammate Azhar Ali told Wisden.com Radio. "But if you see him bowling with the old ball, he hardly gives anything to the batsman.

"This is very (important) on these kinds of tracks. You need batsmen thinking, 'where are my next runs coming from? Where is my next boundary coming from?' Then you can make batsmen make mistakes.

"A lot of people asked me in England, 'will Abbas play in the UAE because of that (lack of) pace?'.

"But I knew for a long time he can reverse the ball and he can bowl with the new ball as well. He's very useful in these conditions."

Finch was the first to go // Getty
Finch was the first to go // Getty

Speaking to reporters after play, Abbas added: “When you talk about pace, among the four fast bowlers here, my fastest delivery is 138kph and average speed is 130kph. I am happy with this speed.”

Travis Head, who ensured Australia's late wobble on day four didn't turn into a full-blown procession as it did in their first innings, praised Abbas' unrelenting efforts.

"He's bowled extremely well … his reverse swing bowling is class," said Head. "To go out there today and to get through was nice, but he's always (pressuring you).

"He swung the ball away, he swung the ball in. He asks questions and didn't leave the stumps. It was quite difficult to score, over the last few days when he's bowled, we've seen the game stop and the scoreboard shut down.

"That becomes pressure in itself.

"He's bowled well again today and he'll be someone tomorrow we'll have to be right on our games (for) and get through."

Australia: Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Mitchell Marsh, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine (c & wk), Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland

Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz

Qantas Tour of the UAE

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc

Pakistan Test squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez

Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai

Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai

Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi

About the Writer

 @LouisDBCameron
@LouisDBCameron

Louis Cameron is a Melbourne-based journalist. A former Victorian Bushrangers fast bowler, Louis joined the cricket.com.au team with assistance from the Australian Cricketers' Association's Internship Program in 2016.