Traditionally, Australia vs Pakistan has been a rivalry that is quite underrated. The two teams have participated in some magnificent matches over the decades and have always contained players with immense potential and talent. Usually, it's a contest involving the skills of Pakistan and the fortitude of Australia.
This series promises to be a close encounter as Australia are not as strong a side as they used to be. Also, Pakistan, no matter how short of firepower they seem, often come up with brilliant performances. So, it's genuinely hard to predict which team will come out on top. Having lost a home series to India earlier this year – their first loss to that team at home ever – the hosts won't take anything easy.
So, as we gear up for this exciting contest, here are the 5 most interesting aspects of this series that you need to watch carefully.
Yasir Shah made his debut in UAE against Australian in 2014 and immediately impressed everyone, including the great Shane Warne. Since then, he has been the most prolific wicket-taker in international Test cricket. But if there is one black spot on his career, it is his ordinary performance in Australia.
On his only tour of the land down under, in 2016/17, Shah not only failed to get as many wickets as expected but also got clattered for a lot of runs. It is, by far, his worst performance in a series. Considering the great leg-spin heritage of Australia, his poor returns were quite surprising. Proving himself in this country is Yasir's biggest challenge till now.
Lyon's Pakistan challenge
Nathan Lyon has been so good for Australia in Test cricket that he has earned the moniker 'GOAT', which stands for 'Greatest of All Time.' His performances against Pakistan haven't been that bad but they haven't been as good as against other teams also. At various times, he has threatened to get a big haul of wickets but eventually failed to get a five-for.
Lyon is now in the best phase of his career and can even lay a claim to being the best off-spinner in the world. It would be very interesting to see whether he manages to finally break down the Pakistani wall and bag a heavy bagful of wickets.
Azhar Ali on trial
Pakistan team has gone through a big transition after the World Cup. One of the major changes has been the appointment of Azhar Ali as captain. In his first series as captain, experts and fans would keep a close eye on his leadership. He would be greatly helped by the presence of Misbah-ul-Haq as coach.
Misbah had been a great leader and under his wings, Azhar could emerge as the sort of captain Pakistan need. Unlike his predecessor Sarfaraz Ahmed, he can lead from the front. Not only has he been a consistent performer as a batsman but also did brilliantly in the last series down under. So, he will be closely watched as well.
David Warner endured a miserable time in England in his first Test series since returning from a one-year ban for ball-tampering. In all probability, his poor results in the Ashes were due to hostility from the crowd and the swing-friendly conditions.
In Australia, where he has been way more successful than elsewhere, Warner is likely to get back his form. He has no other option. If he fails in this series also, his place in the team would come under serious threat.
The 2019 Ashes would be remembered for the magnificent performance by Steve Smith who redeemed himself after suffering the disgrace of a one-year ban for ball-tampering. But what that series also showed was how much the Australian team depends on him. Without Smith, the Aussies would have suffered a heavy defeat.
Already, questions are being asked about the place of Smith in the pantheon of greatest batsmen. For the right-hander to make his claims for being regarded an all-time great legitimate, he will have to continue his good form. Also, having missed one year of cricket, he has to do some catching up. So, it will be interesting to see whether he sustains his heavy run-scoring in this series.