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Australia Face Selection Headaches Ahead of Sydney Test

Most of the talk in the lead up to the final cricket test between Australia and Pakistan has been around the composition of the two sides. Firstly, comes the retirement question of Misbah-ul-Haq. Secondly, is the characteristics of the Sydney pitch and how conducive to spin it will be, and consequently how that alters the thinking of the Australian selectors.

The questions are unanswered for now, but once known will form the nucleus of the key talking points about the dead rubber. We’ve highlighted some of the other key talking points below:

The Series So Far

For all the decent cricket Pakistan has played in the series thus far, they still find themselves down 2-0. After the heartbreak of Brisbane – falling just short of a record fourth innings chase – and the huge amount of time lost to bad weather in Melbourne, the touring side gave everybody reason to believe the series would still be alive. However, a final day capitulation for the ages – at the hands of Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon – gave Australia their second win of series from as many matches.

Frustratingly, for Pakistan fans and for the cricket neutrals, the series has been competitive, with Pakistan missing a little bit of quality in the key moments (and relying on too many individuals).

The Teams

Australia (likely):

1 David Warner, 2 Matt Renshaw, 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steve Smith (capt), 5 Peter Handscomb, 6 Hilton Cartwright, 7 Matthew Wade, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Josh Hazlewood, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Steve O’Keefe

Debutant Hilton Cartwright is expected to replace Nic Maddinson to better balance the side and allow a second spinner to play. Whether that is O’Keefe (the incumbent) or Ashton Agar remains to be seen. Agar may be viewed as more of a batting allrounder and would allow for the three quicks to stay in the side, but that results in Matthew Wade batting quite high for someone who is short of runs.

Either way, it will be two spinners and a new number 6.

Pakistan (likely)

Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Azhar Ali, Sami Aslam, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali.

The big talking point during the week was Misbah’s retirement. Whether he will continue and play in Sydney is still unknown at the time of writing. If he does call it a day, it will close the curtains on a tremendous career. He’ll leave the game as the most successful test captain in Pakistan’s history and will richly deserve the praise he receives.

The Key Players

Australia

Garry the GOAT (Nathan Lyon), is quickly becoming a cult favourite amongst the cricket-following public of Australia. The offspinner is lapping up the social media attention, although presumably, he’d like to be garnering the attention for world class bowling performances, not his nicknames. The Sydney test gives him such an opportunity. The SCG will turn, but will the turn be too slow for Lyon to be effective. If not he’s a key figure in the game.

Pakistan

Mohammed Amir has been good on tour but not great. Wickets are never easy to come by in Australia as has proven this time around for Amir too. He’s bowled nice spells, he’s beaten the bat countless time and has kept the scoring rate in check. However, Pakistan needs wickets from him and lots of them if they can sneak a win in the already lost series.

The Match Odds*

Australia – $1.42

Pakistan – $7.10

Draw – $5.90

*All odds courtesy of Sportsbet

The Prediction

Neither are likely to occur, but the money on a Pakistan win or a draw are very attractive. With the Sydney test dominated by wet weather last year, the draw could be the better of the two. Having said that, in the slow turner of Sydney, Yasir Shah could be a factor. The gambler says take a punt, the cricket pundit says Australia to win comfortably.

The Best Bets

Steve Smith to top score for the Aussies at $3.25 is hard to ignore. This bet isn’t like the Kane Williamson of NZ or the Joe Root of England. Place it every time and it should come good more often than not.

Alternatively, if you like fairytales (and better returns) bank on Misbah going out in style (if he doesn’t retire before the game) and top scoring. That’s paying $6.

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