After Pakistan meandered to 96 for 9 in the T20 last week, Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, had said, “The major focus for us is how are we going to deal with 50 overs?” Misbah-ul-Haq then talked about the loss of confidence after the defeat in the one-dayer on Tuesday. Those assessments suggest the state of mind of Pakistan’s batsmen. They have looked rusty, their shot selection has been poor and in their need to play freely they have misread match situations.
More often than not a top-order contribution is precursor to a solid total. However, Pakistan have not had that luxury – their opening stand has contributed 13 and nine so far on this tour. Over the last two years in ODIs, they have toyed with seven different players at the top of the order and have managed only one century stand. Tellingly, there are 18 single-digit associations in that list. Changing that trend would be a priority, especially with only nine more matches left for the World Cup.
Australia have not had such afflictions. Their body language has been aggressive and both their bowlers and batsmen have adapted to the slow, turning pitches in UAE well. David Warner has looked determined against spin and Steven Smith’s elevation to No. 3 has made even greater sense after his maiden century. Their concerns lie in the lower middle order which has been stifled by a mix of Pakistan’s discipline in the latter overs and slower pitches. However, they would hope to keep their “foot on the throat”, as Glenn Maxwell said after the T20 win,
In the spotlight
Ahmed Shehzad had barely settled in when he was nearly nose-to-nose with Brad Haddin during the T20 match. The Australia vice-captain had added a bit of colour while demanding that Shehzad step away from an incoming throw. Neither party wanted to back down and the scuffle was rather heated. Being one of three Pakistan batsmen to assimilate over 1000 runs in ODIs over the past two years, Shehzad would also want to answer Australia’s aggression with a contribution to the scorecard.
James Faulkner began his career at No. 8 and has not often had occasion to construct an innings. After his maiden ton in November 2013 and stealing a victory from England in January, his contributions have been subdued. With a few first-choice players injured for this series though, he has been moved up the order to no. 6 and Australia would want him to adapt quickly.
With concerns in their batting, Pakistan may opt for a change of personnel in the top order. Only three options are left though: Sohaib Maqsood, whose form has been erratic, Umar Amin, who averages less than 20 and Sami Aslam, an uncapped 18-year old.
Pakistan (likely) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 3 Asad Shafiq/ Sohaib Maqsood, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Anwar Ali, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Zulfiqar Babar, 11 Mohammad Irfan.
Australia have managed to find a settled combination without Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh. It is likely they might not want to tinker with the XI.
Australia (likely) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 David Warner, 3 Steven Smith, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 James Faulkner, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Sean Abbott, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Nathan Lyon.
Pitch and conditions
The average first-innings score in Dubai is 233. But that accounts for vagaries: Sri Lanka chased down a target of 285 in the last ODI in Dubai, while South Africa fell 66 short of a target of 210 in the one before that. Another sunny day is forecast with a high of 36 degrees celsius.
Stats and trivia
- Pakistan’s economy rate in the last 10 overs is 7.28 in the last two years. Only two of the top-eight teams – South Africa and West Indies – are better. However, in the last five overs they concede 9.07 – the worst for a top-eight team
- Australia have been scoring 39 runs per wicket, on average, over the last year – the best among all teams that have played over five ODIs
“We haven’t changed our style. We’re a very competitive group. Guys are up there trying to eat their breakfasts quicker than each other now.”
Australia’s vice-captain Brad Haddin
“At the moment our confidence is shaky… A win puts all the things in the right place. It is very important that you keep working hard and don’t lose hope.”
Misbah-ul-Haq is hopeful of a turnaround