Pakistan have never beaten Australia in a bilateral ODI series in the UAE, and to reverse that, they will have to win the next three matches of the ongoing series, starting with the third ODI on Wednesday, 27 March.
Pakistan v Australia
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi
Wednesday, 27 March; 15.00 hrs local, 11.00am GMT
Just how much difference can a single series make? Australia came to India as an unfancied side and beat them 3-2. They are now on a five-match winning streak and seem unstoppable. With the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 just weeks away, this is a classic sign of Australia before such events: they just raise their game.
Most pleasing in this turnaround has been Aaron Finch’s return to form. The Australia limited-overs captain has gone from being somewhat unsure of his place at the World Cup to being confirmed as captain for the tournament and to making two centuries and a ninety in his last five one-day innings.
At the other end is Usman Khawaja, who has 407 runs from his last five innings. With Finch and Khawaja in the kind of form they’ve been in, Australia’s opening stand averages 104.5 in the last six innings. In this series, they have put on 63 and 209, and it has helped Australia run down targets of 281 and 285 with seeming ease.
The downside of this kind of top-order dominance is the middle order going untested for extended periods. It is the same issue that has ailed India for so long now. But with Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb all having found form recently, it’s not an immediate concern.
Pakistan are inexperienced, but they have had their performers with the bat. Haris Sohail struck a century in the first ODI and Mohammad Rizwan did so in the second. It’s with the ball that they have lacked incision, taking four Australian wickets in 97 overs this series. Yasir Shah, especially, who has had so much success as a Test cricketer in these conditions, has been disappointing, taking 1-116 in 20 overs.
On the bright side, fellow Test regular Mohammad Abbas has had a decent start to his limited-overs career, giving away 82 runs in 17 overs while dismissing Finch once.
But wickets are what Pakistan need. It’s what they need to turn up the pressure and test the Australian middle order. It’s also what they need to pick up a win and keep their hopes alive of winning a bilateral ODI series against Australia for the first time in the UAE.
Haris Sohail (Pakistan): He bats at the all-important No. 3 position, is in good form, and has had a terrific start to his one-day career, where he averages 47.60 after 28 matches. If the top order fires, Sohail will be the one to build on it and launch Pakistan to a big score. If the top order fails, he will be expected to be the glue that holds the innings together and builds it.
Usman Khawaja (Australia): Khawaja is enjoying a tremendous second wind to his one-day career and seems determined to make that opening slot his own at the World Cup. He faces direct competition from David Warner, who like Khawaja, bats left-handed at the top of the order. Since the start of the India series, Khawaja has made 495 runs in seven outings at 70.71 and is Australia’s most consistent batsman in their current line-up.
In the last five ODIs, Abu Dhabi has had first-innings scores of 209, 266, 239, 249 and 257. Expect anything over 250 to be par and 300 or above to be match-winning. Temperature is expected to hover around 30°C at the start.
Pakistan: Shoaib Malik (c), Mohammad Abbas, Umar Akmal, Abid Ali, Saad Ali, Mohammad Amir, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Hasnain, Junaid Khan, Shan Masood, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari, Haris Sohail, Imam ul-Haq, Imad Wasim
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa
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