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Australia batsmen in familiar tail-spin in Dubai

Reuters | Updated: October 25, 2014, 1:58 PM IST
Australia batsmen in familiar tail-spin in Dubai

Scars re-opened on a dusty pitch in Bulawayo in August bled profusely on day three of the first Test against Pakistan as Australia's batsmen showed a familiar vulnerability to tight spin bowling on slow wickets.

Having sailed to 128 without loss, Australia crumbled against an inexperienced Pakistani attack in Dubai on Friday to fall 151 runs short of the hosts' first innings total of 454 and leave their hopes of victory and top Test ranking in jeopardy.

With Pakistan's leading spinner Saeed Ajmal serving a ban for an illegal action, a slow bowling unit featuring a debutant legspinner, a 35-year-old left-armer playing his third Test and an allrounder combined for six wickets, including four of Australia's specialist batsmen.

The collapse nullified the amount of work the visitors have put into trying to overcome their natural familiarity with the bounce and pace on wickets at home.

They have had no shortage of advice from specialist coaches and consultants, even drafting in record-holding Test wicket-taker Muttiah Muralitharan for his insights.

The country's cricket board also built an artificial pitch in Brisbane to help their batsmen deal with spin bowling on slow, low wickets.

The visitors' hapless performance in Dubai, however, echoed of the display at Bulawayo on Aug. 31, where Australia lost their first one-day international match to Zimbabwe in 30 years after they were bamboozled by the hosts' unfancied spinners.

There, captain Michael Clarke lamented Australia's continued struggles against slow bowling and demanded his batsmen find a way to get past it.

On Friday, Clarke was in no position to point the finger, having been deceived by the left arm orthodox spin of 35-year-old Zulfiqar Babar and dismissed for two runs after a tentative defensive prod edged a catch in close.

Opener David Warner was also beaten by spin after being "too cute" with a shorter delivery from debutant legspinner Yasir Shah, but had by then scored 133 runs in a typically belligerent knock to notch his third Test ton in as many innings.

Alarmingly for Australia, the Dubai pitch was largely benign, offering little turn for the Pakistan bowlers, who clinched their wickets by working a disciplined line and effectively waited for their opponents to get themselves out.

"I think the wicket's been the same since day one," Warner said. "Very consistent, it's coming through nice with the new ball and obviously it slows up for a little bit when the spin comes into play.

"Obviously you've got to be disciplined. There's a bit of turn there but it's turn that's outside the areas (close to the wicket). Bowlers are going to have pitch it out wide and it's easier for us to sweep as batsmen rather than be defensive."

In the form of his life, Warner was furious with himself after giving up his wicket to a ball that begged to be despatched over the fence but the 27-year-old at least showed his team-mates the power of a positive approach.

"It's not easy because it's hard to come in and get set from ball one," said Warner, who nullified the spinners' threat by playing them off the back foot.

"The fields, how they're set are quite hard to score and you've got to be able to bat time out there and that's what you have to do.

"If you get yourself in, in the right frame of mind, you can bat for long periods of time. It's the initial period you get yourself in."

First Published: October 25, 2014, 1:58 PM IST

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