SYDNEY (Agencies): Skipper Tim Paine vowed Australia will play “hard but fair” against Pakistan they embark on their first Test tour since a ball-tampering scandal and with fresh controversy raging following allegations by England’s Moeen Ali.
The squad jetted out late Wednesday for their first Test series since the ill-fated tour of South Africa early this year, which led to 12-month suspensions for Steve Smith and David Warner and triggered an outpouring of public anger.
Australia have five uncapped players in their squad for a tour in which they plan to adopt a more respectful culture and move away from the win-at-all-costs mentality blamed for the explosive ball-tampering row. “The Australian way has always been to play hard and fair and that’ll be no different this series,” Paine told reporters before departing for the United Emirates.
“There are always a lot of eyes on the Australian cricket team wherever we play, so that will be no different, and this team is really clear on what’s expected and our standards, and we’ll uphold them.” Two reviews into the state of the game were set up in the aftermath of South Africa — one focusing on the culture within Cricket Australia and the other into the team.
While the team has had a shake-up and Darren Lehmann was replaced as coach by Justin Langer, they open the two-Test series days after further off-field problems emerged after Moeen said in his autobiography that an Australian player called him “Osama” during the 2015 Ashes. Moeen, a practising Muslim, said he was on the receiving end of the slur, a reference to terror leader Osama bin Laden, from an unnamed opponent during his Ashes debut against in Cardiff.
Cricket Australia has launched an investigation, calling the comment “unacceptable”. ‘Partnerships, patience, pressure’ With Smith, Warner and fellow ball-tamperer Cameron Bancroft missing, along with injured fast bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, it could be a tough tour for Australia, who have one of their weakest squads in years. There are five debutants — Queensland trio Michael Neser, Brendan Doggett and Marnus Labuschagne, South Australia’s Travis Head and Victoria’s Aaron Finch. Paine is expecting a demanding tour played in temperatures likely to hit 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). “We are going to have to play really hard, tough cricket particularly from the batting side,” he said.
“And then in the heat over there, it’s the same for our bowlers; it’s going to be about patience, trying to wear them down and being in a position late in the game where we can make a move.” Matt Renshaw, who was dumped ahead of the Ashes late last year, is likely to open along with Finch, who is an experienced one-day and Twenty20 campaigner but has never played a Test.
A slimmed-down Usman Khawaja, who says he has lost several kilos after stepping up his training regime, is expected to come in a number three with Shaun Marsh at four and potentially Head at five. “We have spoken about partnerships and patience and pressure, which is going to be a real key over there,” said Paine. The first Test is in Dubai from October 7 with the second in Abu Dhabi from October 16.