BRISBANE     -    Former Australia captain RIcky Ponting and off-spinner Nathan Lyon couldn’t read much into Mohammad Abbas’ omission from Pakistan’s XI for the first Test in Brisbane.

Abbas has bagged 66 wickets at an impressive average of 18.86 from 14 Tests so far, and is currently Pakistan’s best ranked bowler in the MRF Tyres ICC Bowling Rankings. 38 of those 66 dismissals had come in 2018, with the right-arm pacer boasting an astonishing average of 13.76 in the period. To add, his record against Australia is even more impressive, as he had bagged 17 wickets in the two Tests played in UAE last year, including a match winning 10 wicket-haul in the second game, that helped his side seal the series.

And so, with him being expected to lead the young attack, in the buildup to the Test, his exclusion from the playing eleven surprised quite a few, including those in the opposition. “I was actually really surprised, personally,” off-spinner Nathan Lyon told told cricket.com.au. “I thought the way he bowled in our series in the UAE was absolutely world class. I think he’s ranked (around) the top 10 so for him to miss out, it must show the quality of the Pakistan bowling. “So we’re not going to take them lightly, that’s for sure – they’ve got some world-class bowlers there – but yeah, very surprised that Mohammad wasn’t a part of their side.”

Abbas’ returns on the South Africa tour earlier this year, where he could manage only five scalps from four innings at a strike-rate of 88.80 and his recent drop in pace might well have been the reason for the snub. However, Ponting, who had an unbeaten record at the venue during his own glorious captaincy career, was surprised with the call despite the 29-year-old’s recent form.

“I was surprised when (Abbas) didn’t play … but then talking to Rameez Raja (former Pakistan international) apparently he’s not in the best of form, he’s dropped a couple of yards of pace – and he’s never been overly quick anyway,” Ponting said. “But you think about these conditions, it would’ve been perfect for him. Even the next Test in Adelaide, it’s going to be great conditions for him there as well. “There’s probably a couple of the Aussie batsmen who think it’s good that he’s not playing because I think they can probably handle the other two (Imran Khan or Shaheen Afridi) better than they can handle him.” Ponting heaped praise on the Australian bowlers, who put the hosts in a strong position at the end of day’s play, bundling out the visitors for 240 in the first innings, after having lost the toss earlier. “You’ve got nowhere to relax against this team,” he remarked. “If you get through Hazlewood and Cummins, then (Mitchell) Starc comes back on. If you get through Starc then (Nathan) Lyon comes on and ties down one end, and that gives the other quicks time to freshen up and come again. “So it’s a good attack and I think they showed how good they are today.”