Another run fest on the cards

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Pakistan v Australia
Start time: Monday 21 March, 05:00
TV: live on Sky Sports

Babar brilliant again

Pakistan looked to be heading to certain defeat in the second Test after being rolled for 147, having conceded 556. That they didn’t was down to brilliant rearguard, and return to form, from Babar Azam.

Babar made 196 and during a 125-run partnership with Mohammad Rizwan, who also notched a ton, an improbable victory target of 506 occasionally looked on. Abdullah Shafique had earlier made 96.

They then had a wobble and were clinging on at that end but if there is such a thing, momentum is with them. It will have felt like a win.

And all are present and correct with Faheem Ashraf returned to the XI and tuned up nicely. Hasan Ali may come under pressure for his place from Haris Rauf.

Probable XI: Imam, Shafique, Azhar, Babar, Fawad, Rizwan, Faheem, Hasan, Nauman, Sajid, Afridi

Hazlewood to return?

Australia will be more concerned than disappointed. How come Nathan Lyon was so ineffective? How come Mitchell Swepson had a debut to forget?

Lyon’s performance was most alarming. In the fourth innings on an Asian surface he really should have been more threatening. Four wickets don’t look too bad but the pressure seemed to get to him over 55 overs.

Swepson clearly seemed affected by the expectation. A spinner’s job is to bowl sides out on wearing surfaces. That’s the bottom line. Not chuck down long-hops and full-tosses. We expect Ashton Agar to play to offer more control.

Australia may look to shuffle a weary bowling attack. Josh Hazlewood could come in for Mictehll Starc, who deserves a rest.

Possible XI: Warner, Khawaja, Labuschagne, Smith, Head, Carey, Green, Agar, Cummins, Lyon, Hazlewood

What happens next

Will a change of venue bring a more fair surface for the battle between bat and ball? What with the bore fest in the Caribbean, the two pitches we’ve seen in Rawalpindi and Karachi have made for poor adverts for the Test game.

It’s not good news. The last nine first-class matches have been draws at the Gaddafi Stadium. And they’ve been full of runs. There’s even been a triple century.

We would expect 400 to be a minimum require in both first-innings and there should be decent value available on the runs par lines. Bet the market here.

Easy trade strategy

Pakistan are 2.962/1, Australia 3.309/4 and the draw 2.727/4. The sensible money will be placed on the draw.
Given what we have seen so far in the series and the pitch report above, it would be a surprise if the stalemate didn’t trade odds-on at some point.

That means if we take the 2.727/4 now, wait for around 1.608/13 to lay, we can double our stake and ensure all results provide a profit. Alternatively you can lay for the same stake and ensure that there are no losses if Pakistan or Australia win. Bet the market here.

Tops value

It could pay to return to old faithful for profits on the side markets. On a probable road, there’s comfort in backing two of the best in the business – Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne for runs. The pair are 11/4 and 3/1 respectively for top Aussie bat in the first dig.

But when runs are set to flow it’s best to take all others out of the equation. It’s possible that a monster required here. So 5/1 and 6/1 for Smith and Marnus for tons in the first dig has appeals. Marnus has been in decent fettle but was run our for a duck in game two.

If you want less stress, Smith is 6/4 for a fifty and Labuschagne 17/10. We note Usman Khawaja, in fine form, at 11/2 for consecutive tons.

For Pakistan, Babar has been boosted to 3/1 for top bat. He is the same price as Smith for fifties/centuries. All first-innings remember. Bet Sportsbook markets here.