After Pakistan’s losing streak last week extended to 12 consecutive Tests in Australia, they must be hoping that a change of format will bring a change of fortunes. Perhaps it will, though much remains stacked against them as they begin a series of five ODIs with the opener at the Gabba on Friday. Their record in ODIs against Australia in Australia isn’t a whole lot better than their Test history, having lost their last eight. In fact, across all formats, Pakistan have lost their last 15 games against Australia in Australia, their last win having come in an ODI at the WACA in 2005.
Adding to the challenge for Pakistan, they are facing the No.1-ranked ODI side in the world, and are themselves ranked eighth. It is a precarious position for Pakistan, who are at serious risk of failing to qualify directly for the 2019 World Cup. The eight highest-ranked sides as at September 30 this year will earn automatic qualification, while the remainder will be forced to take part in the World Cup Qualifier in Bangladesh in 2018. Every ODI win in the next nine months is therefore critical for Pakistan.
And they will begin this series with a weakened squad, having lost both Mohammad Irfan and Sarfraz Ahmed, who have both flown home to Pakistan for family reasons. But Australia also enter this series with a new-look side, which might give Pakistan a glimmer of hope. The tall and very raw fast bowler Billy Stanlake will make his debut at the Gabba, along with middle-order batsman Chris Lynn. And David Warner will have a new opening partner – Travis Head – after Aaron Finch was dropped. George Bailey has also been axed, and it means that for the first time since June 2012, Australia will play an ODI with neither Bailey nor Finch. Josh Hazlewood is also out of this first game, being rested after a heavy workload in the Tests.
It has been a difficult summer for Glenn Maxwell, who was named in the squad for the Chappell-Hadlee Series in December but was left out of all three games. Before the series, Maxwell had caused controversy with comments about batting behind Matthew Wade in Victoria’s Sheffield Shield side, and was fined by Australia’s team leadership group. But perhaps it’s a case of new year, new beginnings. Finally, he is back in Australia’s XI, and will play his first ODI since the tri-series in the West Indies last June. And expect him to be ahead of Wade in the batting order.
Nearly two years have passed since Umar Akmal has played an ODI. His most recent appearance was in the World Cup quarter-final between Pakistan and Australia at Adelaide Oval in March 2015, a match best remembered for Wahab Riaz’s fiery battle with Shane Watson. But Umar is back in favour, and is coming off an innings of 54 from 39 balls in the tour match against a Cricket Australia XI at Allan Border Field on Tuesday. Having spent so long out of the ODI setup, he may just have something to prove.
Steven Smith confirmed Australia’s XI on the eve of the match, with Head named to open alongside Warner, and Lynn and Stanlake set to debut. Legspinner Adam Zampa and batsman Usman Khawaja miss out.
Australia 1 David Warner, 2 Travis Head, 3 Steven Smith (capt), 4 Chris Lynn, 5 Mitchell Marsh, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 James Faulkner, 9 Pat Cummins, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 Billy Stanlake.
Mohammad Hafeez was a late addition to the squad and could be rushed in for the first game. With Sarfraz unavailable, Mohammad Rizwan is expected to take the gloves. The make-up of Pakistan’s attack is uncertain, though it is likely only one of Imad Wasim and Mohammad Nawaz will play.
Pakistan (possible) 1 Azhar Ali (capt), 2 Sharjeel Khan, 3 Mohammad Hafeez, 4 Babar Azam, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Mohammad Amir/Junaid Khan, 10 Wahab Riaz, 11 Hasan Ali.
Pitch and conditions
High scoring is possible at the Gabba – in the two most recent ODIs there, targets of 300-plus were successfully chased down. However, if the conditions suit, the ball can also swing around a lot – in 2013, Australia were rolled for 74 by Nuwan Kulasekara and the Sri Lankans in a Brisbane ODI. The forecast for Friday is for a hot day and a top of 34C.
Stats and trivia
Australia have dominated recent encounters between these sides, winning 16 of their past 20 ODIs against Pakistan
It may not quite match Australia’s Test record at the so-called Gabbatoir, but of their past nine completed ODIs at the ground, Australia have lost only one
Pakistan would need to win the series in order to move ahead of Bangladesh and into seventh position on the ODI rankings
“It’s nice to have three guys who can get it up around 150kph – it’s never nice to face.”
Steven Smith on slotting in fast bowler Billy Stanlake alongside Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. Agencies