Australia will embark on nine Tests against sub-continent teams this southern hemisphere winter, playing three away to Pakistan, two to Sri Lanka and the crown jewel in such an environment – four Tests for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. There is also a single historic Test scheduled to be played against Afghanistan in India before the series against India itself gets underway.
India and Pakistan away from home has been a mountain which Australia have simply been unable to overcome over the years, failing to win series more often than they haven’t.
In fact, while Sri Lanka have had some slip ups at home against the men from down under, Australia have won just 15 out of their last 71 Tests on the sub continent, and 9 out of 55 against India and Pakistan, losing 27 of those.
It means there will be serious value to be found at Neds when it comes to backing Australia to fall over the line when they take on Pakistan in the first of these three tours.
But Australia can’t be written off, despite their lack of success against teams on pitches that can often be described as “dustbowls.”
That isn’t always the case in Pakistan, and hasn’t been in the last couple of years however, with quick bowlers doing plenty of damage for both Pakistan and opposition touring teams since tours resumed to the nation for the first time in more than a decade.
Pakistan are hard to beat at home – of that there can be no doubt.
But Australia are a strong side who are improving in these conditions. Last time against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, they held on for a famous draw and have only gotten since then. The green and gold have some of the world’s best players against spin in the shape of David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, while it’s fair to say Usman Khawaja has also improved that department of his game out of sight in the last couple of years, provided of course he is kept at the top of the order.
More than that though, it’s the bowling attack where it could be argued Australia have made the greatest strides forward in these conditions.
Nathan Lyon is now one of the greatest off-spinners of all-time, but on top of that, he is receiving substantial competition from Mitchell Swepson, who has lit up domestic cricket over the past 24 months. On top of that, the reverse swing exploits of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins continue to strengthen, while competition for pace bowling spots will come heavily from Melbourne Boxing Day debutant Scott Boland and Jhye Richardson.
It’s an attack with enormous depth, and given the lack of runs Australia have so often experienced on the sub-continent may not also be someway towards being taken care of, it’s going to be difficult to write off a team who just bombed England out of the Ashes with a 4-0 series win, which was just a single wicket away from being 5-0.
Pakistan recently got the better of Bangladesh in a Test series, but that doesn’t say all that much for the side against another sub-continent opposition in that part of the world.
Australia bring with them a new challenge, and while the history is against Justin Langer’s side, logic says they are more than just a half chance.