Wahab Riaz has warned Australia to be prepared for the same hostile fast bowling he produced the last time he played against them on Australian soil. Wahab’s heated battle with Shane Watson at the Adelaide Oval during the World Cup was one of the most memorable white-ball spells in recent times, despite the fact it didn’t produce a wicket.
Those four overs have elevated Wahab’s reputation in Australia and made him one of the more recognisable figures in a Pakistan squad that hasn’t played a Test here in almost seven years. Goaded by Watson when he was batting, Wahab struck back with several body blows in a display of searing pace and short-pitched bowling that, ultimately, couldn’t swing the match back in Pakistan’s favour.
“That was one of my best matches I have ever played,” Wahab said at the Gabba on Tuesday in the lead-up to the first Test against Australia. “It was really exciting. I would love to repeat that performance from the World Cup, I want to bowl like that on this tour but I want to be amongst the wickets – I was lacking some wickets in that spell. So this is what I’m looking for.
“Obviously, I have to do what I do really well. I can’t change myself because if I do that it’s not going to work for me. I am going to bowl aggressively, I will bowl short as well. It’s part of the plan. But it will all be according to the situations and what the situation demands, how I have to react like that.”
While the Adelaide pitch hardly has the reputation of being a fast bowler’s dream, the Gabba is a different beast altogether. Wahab has only played one match here, also during the 2015 World Cup, against Zimbabwe, which brings other satisfying recollections; he took 4 for 45 and scored 54 not out in a man-of-the-match performance.
No one could doubt the Australian players are relieved to be back in their series-starting fortress. A 28-year undefeated streak will do that – they have not lost a Gabba Test since 1988 – reinstating the sort of confidence that has been shaken and stirred by the series loss to South Africa.
But, if the Australian fast bowlers are licking their lips at the prospect of a deck that offers pace and bounce, to Pakistan’s quicks the Gabba must seem a lush bowling oasis after years of plying their trade in an unforgiving desert.
‘It’s very exciting,” said Wahab. “We have played a lot of cricket in the UAE and the wickets over here are really good – they have bounce, they have pace. So it’s really good for the fast bowlers and I’m looking forward to bowling here.
“The wickets are slow there [in the UAE] and we are used to playing on those tracks so that’s why it looks like our bowlers don’t have that much potential or we don’t have those kinds of spells every day consistently. It’s always different because it’s a spin track or a batting track in the UAE so that is the biggest difference.”
There is no doubt Pakistan face a formidable task – no Asian team has won a series in Australia and Pakistan have won only four Tests here, two of them dead rubbers – and they arrive on the back of a 2-0 series loss in New Zealand, but Wahab says his side is not fazed by history, nor the Gabba’s intimidating record for visitors.
“This is what we’re looking for as well – records are meant to be broken and this might be the chance for Pakistan to break that record,” Wahab said. “Obviously it’s not going to be easy, we have to do a lot of hard work. We have to take 20 wickets, and obviously we are looking for that – we know even no Asian country has won a series here in Australia. So looking for that and that should really give us a good boost and give us something to go for.
“We have to take the challenge. We know Australia is good in their home conditions, it’s one of the best teams. To compete with them we have to counterattack them, we have to have that confidence. We’ve got the skills and everyone is prepared for these Test matches.”
One positive for Pakistan is the presence in their group of Mickey Arthur and Steve Rixon, both of whom were on Australia’s coaching staff from 2011 to 2014 and worked closely with several members of the current Australia team including Steven Smith and David Warner. Wahab said the pair had been “a great help” in giving Pakistan’s players the inside running on Australia.
“Everybody knows everything about David Warner and Steve Smith – you have to attack them,” said Wahab. “That’s it. You cannot look for them to give you their wicket. You have to buy their wickets.
“It’s a great help having Mickey Arthur and Steve Rixon. Obviously they have been working really hard on us, and they have spent a lot of time with Australia as well. We get that information coming up from them, they are telling us their experiences. And obviously it’s time for us to deliver. So it’s more important how we deliver, we’ve got all the consequences so we have to deliver on the day.”