Australia and Pakistan had contrasting starts to their World cup campaign. While Australia waltzed to comfortable wins in their first couple of games, Pakistan suffered a humiliating loss against West Indies in their opener. Pakistan bounces back brilliantly though through their batsman against tournament favourites England. Even though bowling is still a concern for the men in green, the batting for sure looks in great health. The openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman have been in the runs and so have the middle order of Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Their bowling attack which has been buoyed by the addition of Wahab Riaz is still not completely out of the woods. Hasan Ali who was their star bowler in 2017 Champions Trophy hasn’t found his rhythm yet. Shadab Khan who has made a comeback after injury hasn’t looked at his best and the fifth bowling option is a concern as well. The combination of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik is again something which cannot be relied upon in every game. The positive though is that their leader of the attack Mohammad Amir is among wickets again, which will be a huge relief for the team management. Pakistan havent played for a while as their last game against Sri Lanka was rained out and are not expected to make any changes to their XI.
Australia on the other hand after a brilliant start came crashing down against India at the Oval. Their bowling attack got exposed in that game as after Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, their bowling lacked any depth. They for sure are going to make changes to their XI. The batting as well suffered for fluency at the top with David Warner struggling to get the ball off the square. Even though Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith looked in great touch their tempo in the middle overs was a cause for concern. Whether Australia will give in to the temptation of bringing in Shaun Marsh in place of Khawaja is something we have to wait and see. Australia for sure are going to bring in either Kane Richardson or Jason Behrendorff in place of Marcus Stoinis who is out injured with a side strain.
The middle and lower order batting though did well and Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey looked in great touch. Those were some of the positives for the Aussies in the game against India. They would still need a shake up to their XI and they do look little unsettled in comparison to their opponents going in to this all important game.
Head to Head:
Pakistan have historically struggled against Australia in ODIs but in World Cups they have been very close. Australia having a slight edge with 5-4 in the 9 games they have played so far.
Aaron Finch (Australia): Aaron Finch looked in great touch in the game against India before he was unfortunately run out. Considering the struggles of David Warner so far, the onus on providing a good start squarely falls on the captain. The good thing for Australia though is that Warner despite struggling for timing is still scoring runs.
Pat Cummins (Australia): The one weakness the Pakistan batting has is against good pace bowling. Considering the weather will be playing a part in this game, the pace bowlers might get some assistance from the pitch. Pat Cummins was Australia’s best bowler in the game against India and he with his pace and accuracy can jolt the Pakistan top order in right conditions. Australia will be expecting the same from their premier fast bowler.
Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan): In a crucial game like this openers are very important. Australia’s strength is with the new ball as both Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins being at the helm. Fakhar Zaman who has gotten off to some starts would need to provide the kind of start which the middle order can build on. Since he is the aggressor at the top, he will be expected to set the pace for Pakistan.
Shadab Khan (Pakistan): Even though Shadab hasn’t looked 100% so far, the struggles of Australian batters against good spin means that he will be crucial with the ball for Australia. Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal had completely chocked the Aussie batting in the middle overs and Pakistan will be hoping that Shadab can do the same for Pakistan.
What they said?
“I think it might play a huge part in the next few days, I think. Next week it starts to fine up and looks good across the country for the remainder of the tournament,” Finch said. “But it’s important that you get early wins on the board because if they do play a part you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a couple of washouts that might leave you just outside that top four.”
“We have not won many matches against Australia but we had not won too many against England either and we managed to beat them,” said a confident Sarfaraz Ahmed ahead of their important clash against Australia.
Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk/c), Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Hassan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir
David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja/Shaun Marsh, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa
With rain prediction again for this game at Taunton both teams will be geared up for a shortened game and the combinations might change accordingly. Ahead of the game though the Pakistan team does look more settled while the loss against India has made Australia question some of their choices. The injury to Marcus Stoinis means that Nathan Coulter-Nile might get another life line and he probably would know that this might be his last chance to shine. Even though Pakistan look the stronger unit, the Australians cannot be written off.