Australian captain Pat Cummins ready to have a go at Pakistan in three Test series beginning in Perth on Thursday

Australia and Pakistan will lock horns in Perth for the first Test. (Source: PCB)

The much-anticipated Test cricket summer Down Under commences at Perth’s Optus Stadium, marking the beginning of Australia’s quest to regain the No.1 position in the Test rankings from India. This endeavour aligns with their overarching aspiration to triumphantly defend their World Test Championship crown in 2025. 

Australia’s series against Pakistan commences on Thursday, extending beyond the Benaud-Qadir trophy stakes for both the hosts and visitors.

In their pursuit to reshape history Down Under, the Asian giants face the formidable Aussies, who have secured victories in their last 14 consecutive Tests against them, spanning five series whitewashes since Pakistan’s 1999-2000 tour.

The first match of the home summer starts on Thursday, December 14, at Optus Stadium in Perth, with subsequent contests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). While Australia and Pakistan aim for a series victory, the World Test Championship points are also up for grabs.

After successfully retaining the Ashes in England and securing victory in the ICC Cricket World Cup in India, Australia aims to kickstart their home summer on a positive note. Captain Pat Cummins is optimistic that the team will deliver an outstanding performance in the opening clash.

In a significant development, Travis Head has been reinstated as Australia’s Test vice-captain, suggesting that the World Cup final hero is the frontrunner to succeed Pat Cummins when the skipper decides to step down.

Ahead of the first Test against Pakistan in Perth, Head has been included in Australia’s leadership group alongside Cummins and vice-captain Steve Smith.

Travis Head during a net session. (Source: PTI)

Previously appointed as Test vice-captain in early 2019 during Tim Paine’s captaincy, Head lost the position after being dropped for the 2020/21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

Cummins has officially revealed his XI for the first Test of the summer, featuring no surprises. Veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon, returning from injury, will replace Todd Murphy in the squad and playing lineup after missing the latter part of The Ashes earlier this year.

Opening batter David Warner will partner with Usman Khawaja as he aims to conclude his Test career on a high note, leading into the final match of the series at his home ground, the SCG.

Fast bowler Mitchell Starc is cleared to play after overcoming a niggle following the World Cup, leaving young Western Australian pace prospect Lance Morris waiting for his chance. Fellow quick Scott Boland and all-rounder Cameron Green are omitted, with Mitchell Marsh retaining the No.6 spot. Australia’s preparations in the buildup have been excellent, with players eager to hit the field and kickstart the home summer.

Following Babar Azam’s resignation as the all-format captain post the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup, Shan Masood takes on the leadership role in this Test, marking Pakistan’s return since their July tour of Sri Lanka. Like Australia, Pakistan also announced their playing XI a day before the match, introducing two debutants – Khurram Shahzad and Aamer Jamal. Khurram makes his Test debut on the back of a stellar run in the 2023-24 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, where he emerged as the highest wicket-taker with 36 to his name at an average 20.30.

Aamer Jamal’s selection over Hasan Ali and Mir Hamza has raised eyebrows, while injuries sideline premier spinner Abrar Ahmed, leading to all-rounder Salman Ali Agha shouldering the spin duties, leaving Noman Ali overlooked.

Now free from captaincy pressure, Babar will aim to elevate his game with the bat, already boasting an average of 47.74 from 88 Test innings.

Supported by players like Shaheen Afridi, Imam-ul-Haq, and Sarfaraz Ahmed, the team aspires to provide ample support to Masood for a series victory against the ODI World Cup champions from on their home turf. Saud Shakeel, with an outstanding average of 87.50 after seven Tests, becomes a player to keep an eye on throughout the series.

Pakistan’s preparations for the ‘West Test’ faced challenges with a less-than-ideal four-day practice match against the Prime Minister’s XI on a slow Manuka Oval pitch in Canberra. The match concluded in a draw due to a severe storm that damaged the pitch, exposing players to conditions different from the upcoming Perth test. Many players, mostly experiencing Australian conditions for the first time, face a formidable Australian team on a lively pitch.

Time and Venue Details

December 10, 2023, 7:50 AM IST, Optus Stadium, Perth

Expected Conditions

The pitch readied at Optus Cricket Stadium promises additional bounce and carry, providing an advantage to the seam bowlers. Batters are likely to face a challenging task in accumulating runs. According to the weather forecast, there are anticipations of light rain on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th days of the Test match.

Playing XIs

Australia: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins (c), Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Shan Masood (c), Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Salman Ali Agha, Faheem Ashraf, Aamir Jamal, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Khurram Shahzad.


Lyon vs Imam: Similar to numerous off-spinners, Lyon finds joy in bowling to left-handed batsmen, and his statistics against Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq illustrate the narrative. Imam has accumulated 172 runs while facing 440 balls in Tests against Lyon. Nevertheless, he has been dismissed four times, providing the seasoned spinner with a potential psychological edge in their encounters.

Shaheen vs Marnus: Shaheen has emerged as the linchpin for Pakistan in the bowling department, boasting an impressive track record against the star Australian batter Marnus Labuschagne in Test matches. Labuschagne has managed to score only 85 runs while facing 195 balls bowled by Afridi, and he has been dismissed five times. Given the challenging conditions of the lively Perth wicket, Marnus is expected to encounter a formidable challenge against Shaheen.

Match Speak

It’s been pretty consistent here over the years, a good surface. Speaking to the ground staff, they were talking about trying to get a bit more pace and bounce than last year. It’s always nice having a red ball back in our hands; it does a little bit more than a white ball at times. Can’t wait to get back out there.

Pat Cummins, Australia Test captain.

As a team we talk about adaptability, whether we play in Canberra, whether we play in Karachi, whether we play in Perth, how quickly can guys adapt to different conditions. That’s what’s most important for me. Good cricketers are always adaptable.

Shan Masood, Pakistan Test captain.

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