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Australia have huge concerns ahead of their Test series against Pakistan after Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins pulled out of their tour. It leaves Mitchell Starc alone from the pace attack that led the Baggy Greens to their Ashes triumph over England last year. Justin Langer now faces a huge challenge, travelling to the United Arab Emirates without four of his senior players, with Steve Smith and David Warner continuing their suspensions from the ball-tampering scandal.
The Baggy Greens have not had a fruitful time since their win over England, losing their series against South Africa while being embroiled in the controversy of the scandal. The suspensions handed out to Smith and Warner along with Cameron Bancroft left a huge blemish on the reputation of Australian cricket. Darren Lehmann was forced to resign from his role as head coach, placing Justin Langer in the limelight.
Their first taste of cricket of overseas cricket without their captain and vice-captain could not have got off to a worse start as England whitewashed the Aussies in their ODI series. James Anderson made the remark during the Ashes that Australia had little depth behind their potent pace trio. His comments proved to be correct as Tim Paine had nowhere to turn to with the ball in their 50-over matches as his team were dismantled by the Three Lions.
Australia now travel to the UAE without several key men to stave off a successive Test series defeat on the road. The Baggy Greens will want to build momentum ahead of the defence of the Ashes, which they are currently backed in the latest cricket betting odds at 10/11 to win next year in England. However, a lot will hinge on the fitness of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins along with the development of the next raft of pace bowlers.
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The injuries to Hazlewood and Cummins will force Langer and Paine into delving into their depth. Jackson Bird has the experience at the age of 31, but has not excelled at the highest level. He should be scheduled to come into the side to replace Hazlewood. Bird struggled against England in his last outing, although he does have 34 wickets in his nine matches. Given the lack of players with a number of first-class games under their belts, Bird’s knowledge could be vital, especially in conditions overseas.
Jhye Richardson had brief moments on the tour of England with the white ball. The 21-year-old has not made a Test appearance for the Baggy Greens. However, he does have a good first-class record, taking 22 wickets at an average of 28.40. The problem for Richardson is that he has only played six matches of championship standard cricket. He will be learning on the job against Pakistan and then in the future series against India and England.
Chadd Sayers is the only other option for Australia that has experience at Test level, having played one solitary match against South Africa. He does not have express pace, although his style of line and length bowling could suit English condition should the Aussie selectors take a long-term view. Starc has also had fitness issues so Langer and Paine will be hopeful that he does not break down. The series against Pakistan could be very important for the future of Australian cricket, developing depth behind the key players for future series.