PAK v AUS: Babar Azam predicts another slow pitch at Lahore

The Pakistan captain says the pitch at Lahore for the third Test will turn and his spinners are ready for the challenge.

Australia will field the same team while Pakistan is yet to name its playing 11.   -  AP

Pakistan captain Babar Azam predicts another slow wicket will test the patience and skills of batters when his side meets Australia in the decisive third and final Test on Monday.

Babar played an epic knock in the fourth innings of the second Test when his marathon 196 defied Australia for more than 10 hours and forced a draw at Karachi to keep the series locked at 0-0.

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Australia spinners Nathan Lyon and debutant leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson bowled 108 of the 172 overs in the fourth innings at Karachi but Pakistan kept the visitors at bay by scoring 443-7 in more than five sessions, falling short by 63 runs of the mammoth 506-run target.

The docile and lifeless wicket in the tame drawn Test at Rawalpindi saw Australia picking up just four out of the 14 wickets to fall and the pitch at the Pindi Cricket Stadium also received one demerit point after being rated as “below average” by the ICC.

After the criticism of the Rawalpindi wicket, the Pakistan Cricket Board flew in ICC Academy curator Toby Lumsden, who has assisted the local ground staff to prepare the Lahore Test wicket.

“It’s not much different, looks like the same pitch but I feel it will definitely give turn,” Babar told reporters via videoconference on Sunday.

“It has small cracks from where spinners could get help, but you can’t tell 100 per cent because of hot conditions. Whatever it is, our spinners are ready for it and will fight.”

Australia's historic first tour of Pakistan since 1998 has an added significance going into the series decider. Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium will be hosting its first Test in 13 years since a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in 2009 that led to a lengthy absence of international cricket in the country.

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None of the Pakistan players have played a Test match at the Gaddafi Stadium where Babar made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe in 2015 when Pakistan started its campaign to win back the confidence of foreign teams and the resumption of international cricket.

Test cricket resumed in Pakistan in 2019 when Sri Lanka toured Pakistan while Bangladesh and South Africa also played Test matches, but in Karachi and Rawalpindi, rather than Lahore.

“You have a different feeling when you play on your home ground and before your home crowd,” Babar said. “Definitely, it will be a proud moment for all of us if we win the home series because we believe we are improving day by day.”

While Pakistan is still contemplating which of its spinners to take into the match, Australia has named an unchanged side, which means Swepson will get another game to exhibit his legspin skills on a slow wicket with experienced off-spinner Lyon.

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