x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Australians plan for the Ashes

If any of the five Australia debutants can impress against Pakistan in the upcoming Test series, a ticket for the Ashes - starting in Brisbane in November - could be the reward.

If any of the five Australia debutants can impress against Pakistan in the upcoming Test series, a ticket for the Ashes - starting in Brisbane in November - could be the reward. But Ahmed Rizvi writes that it is not just the new boys who are in need of good performances, some of the most established members of the squad have question marks hanging over them, too

The Australia captain has scored more than 11,900 runs and 39 centuries in Test cricket, but is yet to reach the three-figure mark at Lord's, where the first Test starts today. The likes of Bangladesh's Tamim Iqbal have their name inscribed on the honour board at the home of cricket, but Ponting has a top-score of 42 in six innings at the venue. This could be his last Test at the ground and "Punter" is keen to finally get a century on the haloed turf. "Over the years, I have not got a great record at Lord's as far as Test cricket is concerned," he said. "It would be nice to make a hundred there. But if that doesn't happen, there's not much I can do about it."

Johnson also does not have happy memories of Lord's. The last time he played a Test at the home of cricket, it was the fourth match of the 2009 Ashes and the left-arm pacer was hammered for 200 runs as England won by 115 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Johnson still remembers that game and is keen to exorcise those demons ahead of the battle for the urn Down Under. "That Ashes experience was very frustrating," he said. "I was going through a few personal things at the time. I was spraying the ball about. But I have learned from it and proved to myself I am a better bowler."

"Mr Cricket" also has bad memories from his last visit to England. Hussey was the least successful of Australia's batsmen in the 2009 Ashes with two ducks and two other scores of less than 10 runs in eight innings, before he finished off with a well-made 121 at The Oval. Against Pakistan, he has had no such problems with a memorable century at Sydney earlier in the year and an incredible innings of 60 from 24 balls in the semi-final of the World Twenty20. He will be looking to build on those impressive knocks and hope to carry that form over for when England visit Australia later in the year.

Since making his international debut in February this year, the leg-spinner has won many admirers for his attitude. His growing reputation will, however, be put to the test when the 21-year-old plays his first Test match, against a team traditionally strong against spinners. The England think-tank will be making notes as he bowls to the likes of the Butts, Akmals and Afridis. Should he succeed against players of their ilk, he will have truly arrived. If things don't go his way, Smith can find solace in Shane Warne's disappointing Test debut against India and come back stronger to follow in the footsteps of a peerless legend.

A talented top-order batsman and wicketkeeper, Tim Paine could be making his Test debut against Pakistan today. He has already got glowing recommendations from his captain. "Expect a big showing from him," said Ponting.

"He is very, very solid behind the stumps and very technically correct as a batsman." Paine will look to prove him right after a mixed showing in the recent one-day international series against England when he failed to build on good starts. But if he can improve against Pakistan, a place in the Ashes squad will surely be his. arizvi@thenational.ae