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Spinners the key to Dubai Test

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One look at the pitch for the first Test was enough to convince Australian captain Michael Clarke it’s going to be a challenging week against Pakistan’s spinners.

Clarke’s side trained at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Monday on pitches a few metres either side of the centre-wicket area, and were due to train in the nets at the ICC Academy on Tuesday.

The pitch to be used for Wednesday’s first Test is the same one which offered plenty of turn in the limited-overs series earlier this month.

“I wasn’t surprised,” Clarke told reporters on Tuesday.

“When I came here and saw the square before a ball was bowled in the one-dayers, I thought from then ‘that’s the wicket we’ll be playing on’.”

Clarke was rested from the one-day series because of a hamstring injury.

“I came here and watched all the one-day (game) to see how the wicket played,” Clarke said.

“I love the fact we’ve got the opportunity to train on the ground.

“These wickets that we are practising on are going to be very similar to what we get in the game.

“The wicket looks quite dry.”

Clarke has put his latest hamstring concern from the one-day series in Zimbabwe in August behind him. But his match total of 15 runs in last week’s four-day game against Pakistan A has left him short of game time ahead of the two-Test series in the United Arab Emirates, where slow, low pitches contrast sharply with Australian conditions.

“I would have liked a few more runs in the practice game to test that out,” Clarke said.

“But I guess the positive was the fact that I was able to field for two full days, have no pain so both (physio) Alex Kountouris and I were really impressed with that.

“I haven’t done too much batting in a game. My last hit apart from the practice game was in Zimbabwe.

“So there’s been a bit of a gap.”

Clarke has challenged his side to maintain their momentum away from home after their dramatic Test-series victory in South Africa in March.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the World Cup (in February),” Clarke said.

“The boys know how important this series is and I guess that’s why a few of us have spoken about not looking any further than this.”

Following offspinner Saeed Ajmal’s chucking ban, Pakistan are considering a three-pronged spin attack of left-armer Zulfiqar Baba, uncapped leggie Yasir Shah and offspinning allrounder Mohammad Hafeez.

“They’re brought up on wickets that turn. They’re going to be tough,” Clarke said.

“That’s our greatest challenge. The fact that the wickets are so much slower than what we’re used to in Australia.”

Pace-bowling allrounder Mitchell Marsh, who turned 23 on Monday, and left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe are tipped to make their Test debuts for Australia on Wednesday.

Clarke said in a News Corp column on Tuesday he regarded Marsh as a future Test captain.

AUSTRALIA V PAKISTAN IN TESTS

* Played: 57

* Aust won: 28

* Pakistan won: 12

* Drawn: 17

IN 2014

* Aust: won 3, lost 1

* Pakistan: won 1, lost 3

LAST TIME THEY MET IN TESTS:

* 1-1 drawn series in England in 2010

LAST TIME THEY MET IN UAE

* Aust won series 3-0 after 1 match in Colombo, Sri Lanka and 2 in Sharjah, UAE
SQUADS:

* Australia (possible side in batting order): Chris Rogers, David Warner, Alex Doolan, Michael Clarke (capt), Steve Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Steve O’Keefe, Nathan Lyon

* Pakistan squad: Misbah-ul Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Shan Masood, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Talha, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sarfraz Ahmed, Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah.

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