| Adam Gilchrist at the nets with coach John Buchanan in Colombo Wednesday. (AFP)
Colombo: An under-strength Pakistan will be guided by the success of their Asian rivals India and Sri Lanka as they attempt to spin out Australia in the first Test starting here on Thursday.
Both India and Sri Lanka used spin to defeat the world champions in their previous home series, and Pakistan hope the Australians will be equally vulnerable against wily off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq and leggie Danish Kaneria.
Both bowlers will take the field on the damp Tamil Union Ground wicket with captain Waqar Younis sharing the new ball with Shoaib Akhtar and allrounder Abdul Razzaq.
Waqar has not forgotten that Australia crumbled for 162 against Sri Lanka in the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final here last week with Muttiah Muralidharan and Co. picking up seven wickets.
“I believe the wicket will dry out, giving both Saqlain and Kaneria a chance,” said Waqar. “If there is a chink in Australia’s armour, it is spin.”
Pakistan are more worried about their depleted batting resources in the absence of the seasoned trio of Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Yousuf Youhana.
Anwar, like Wasim Akram, opted out of the series for unspecified reasons, while both Inzamam and Youhana were sidelined with injuries.
That has left newly-appointed vice-captain Younis Khan as the most experienced batsman in the side and he has played only 20 Tests.
Left-handed Taufiq Umar will open the batting with either Imran Nazir or Imran Farhat with Misbah-ul-Haq, who has played just one Test, and Hasan Raza, who has played two, expected to shoulder the middle-order.
Pakistan could miss the hard-hitting batting and leg-spin bowling of Shahid Afridi, who was surprisingly axed by selectors after the Champions Trophy.
It is the gaping hole in the middle that Australia’s dreaded pace attack, led by Glenn McGrath, will exploit in the hope of gaining the early advantage in the three-Test series.
But the battle-hardened Aussies are wary of Pakistan’s uncanny ability to bounce back when least expected.
Australia (from): Steve Waugh (captain), Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Damien Martyn, Darren Lehmann, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Bichel.
Pakistan (from): Waqar Younis (captain), Taufiq Umar, Imran Nazir, Imran Farhat, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Hasan Raza, Faisal Iqbal, Abdul Razzaq, Rashid Latif, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Danish Kaneria, Mohammed Sami, Mohammed Zahid, Rana Naveed-ul Hasan.
Umpires: Steve Bucknor (WI), Srinivas Venkataraghvan (Ind).
Waqar gets extension
Waqar has been named to lead Pakistan through next year’s World Cup, a team official announced on Wednesday.
Team manager Khawaja Nasir said that Pakistan would keep Waqar despite losing six of their last 10 one-dayers. “He has been told by the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board... that he will captain the team in the 2003 World Cup,” said Nasir.