It has been one-way traffic in the one-day international series between Pakistan and Australia so far, with Aaron Finch and his team rallying to an unassailable lead of 3-0 quite comfortably.
Pakistan v Australia
Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
Friday, 29 March, 3:00pm local time, 11:00am GMT
Very few things have gone Pakistan's way so far in the series. While skipper Shoaib Malik has repeatedly said that they are using it just to test their bench strength, the lack of contest in all three games is a cause of concern. Unfortunately, for Pakistan, Malik has been ruled out of the fourth ODI due to a bruised rib and Imad Wasim will take over the reins. It remains unclear whether Malik will be returning for the final game.
WWWWWW— ICC (@ICC) March 27, 2019
Australia's ODI form (most recent results first)#PAKvAUS report 👇https://t.co/a2sTPYZw1J pic.twitter.com/NUlmRtCwk6
The bowling attack has been chopped and changed, but Pakistan have still been unable to restrain the resurgent Australian batsmen, particularly Finch, who has recorded two centuries and a 90 in the series so far.
Mohammad Amir's lack of returns led to him getting axed in the third ODI, while Yasir Shah, usually their trump card in these conditions, has been rendered ineffective. The experienced Junaid Khan, who was brought back into the XI in the third game, will be expected to spearhead the pace attack.
The story isn't too bright on the batting front as well: Pakistan were unable to set a 300-plus target in the first two ODIs, and crumbled for 186 all-out while chasing in the third. They will miss the services of Malik, who has scored 11, 60 and 32 so far. Much will be expected from Umar Akmal, who has gotten starts but hasn't been able to convert them into big scores.
Australia, meanwhile, have hit form right before the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019. They were victorious in just three ODIs since January 2018, but have now won six on the trot. The wheels that had fallen off have now been fixed, and the ride looks smooth again.
Finch has been in splendid form, and on Wednesday, fell just 10 runs short of becoming the first Australian to register three consecutive ODI centuries. Usman Khawaja, his opening partner, fell for a duck in the third ODI, but had crossed 85 four times in five innings before that. Peter Handscomb and Glenn Maxwell also contributed in the middle order.
Meanwhile, Adam Zampa and Nathan Coulter-Nile have reaped rewards from the dry surfaces in UAE, and are the leading wicket-takers in the series. Pat Cummins, who came in for the third ODI returning figures of 3/23, has been rested for the final two ODIs. Australia will now have three frontline quicks to choose from - Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Jason Behrendorff.
Australia seal the series win with a 3-0 lead!— ICC (@ICC) March 27, 2019
Adam Zampa takes his ODI best 4/43 while Pat Cummins takes 3/24 as Pakistan are bowled out for 186 - Australia win by 80 runs in Abu Dhabi!#PAKvAUS LIVE ➡️ https://t.co/RtB0aBmSyQ pic.twitter.com/veLOTkp7ze
Aaron Finch (Australia): This is a no-brainer. The Australia skipper has pulled himself out of a rut with outstanding performances over the last few weeks. He has accumulated 359 runs at 179.50 in the series so far, and seems to have regained his mojo before the World Cup.
Imam-ul-Haq (Pakistan): For Pakistan to have a chance in the fourth ODI, it will be important for Imam to get them off to a good start and play a big knock. After getting decent starts in the first two game, he scored a gritty 46 in the third ODI but could not keep the momentum going. He and Shan Masood need to play out the first 10 overs to ensure that Pakistan have a good foundation to build on.
While showers are predicted for Thursday, the weather forecast for Friday shows clear skies. The last time Pakistan played at this venue, Lockie Ferguson wreaked havoc with a five-wicket haul. It will be interesting to see how they handle the Australian pacers this time around.
Pakistan: Shan Masood, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Imad Wasim (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Saad Ali, Abid Ali
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ashton Turner, Kane Richardson