In the aftermath of the 1-0 loss to Pakistan in the just concluded two-match Test series in the UAE, bruised and battered Australia need to gather up the pieces and bounce back quickly to give the world No.1 T20 side any semblance of a fight when battle resumes in the three-match T20I series on 24th October. To understand the state of Australian cricket at the moment, while Australia were suffering yet another batting collapse in Abu Dhabi, nearly all their domestic teams also endured batting collapses during the first round of Sheffield Shield games, as seam bowlers in the manner of Abbas ran riot. Australian coach, Justin Langer is aware of the epidemic and is of the opinion that if his batsmen are to make giant strides, they will need to improve their methods.
Pakistan on the other hand come into the series so full of confidence that Mohammad Amir, who is currently playing domestic cricket to find back his rhythm, and Haris Sohail are two class players to be dropped from the 15-member squad that participated in the tri-nation series in Zimbabwe featuring both these teams earlier this year. All-rounder Imad Wasim returns after a gap of almost a year, as does Babar Azam. Uncapped left-arm medium-fast, Waqas Maqsood, has also been included in a 15-member squad for his performances in the ongoing domestic season and during the T20 series between Pakistan ‘A’ and New Zealand ‘A’ at the ICC Academy.
First T20I: Wednesday October 24th
Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi – 09:30pm
Second T20I: Friday October 26th
Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai – 09:30pm
Third T20I: Sunday October 28th
Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai – 9:30pm
In 17 meetings, Pakistan have managed to emerge victorious on 10 occasions leaving the Aussies with 7 victories to their name.
In the lead up to the first game scheduled for mid-week, Australia thumped the UAE in their first ever T20I encounter by seven wickets and with 23 balls to spare on Monday (October 22) in a classic case of a big full member bullying an associate. D’Arcy Short starred with an unbeaten 68 after the hosts won the toss and opted to bat first giving Nathan Coulter-Nile, on his comeback, fine early opportunity at the stumps. He struck off the very third ball of the match to get rid of Ashfaq Ahmed, before Billy Stanlake ripped out skipper Rohan Mustafa’s stumps with a searing yorker to reduce them to 0 for 2. A target of 118 on a flat track was never going to be much of a challenge for the fancied Australian batting lineup. D’Arcy Short made sure it wasn’t. After Finch fell early, Chris Lynn provided good impetus with a quickfire 13-ball 20. Short, who until then was getting his eye in, stepped up the scoring rate once Lynn fell and stitched up good partnerships with Glenn Maxwell and debutant Ben McDermott to bring up his fourth T20I half-century. He finished with an unbeaten 68, scoring nearly sixty-percent of his side’s runs in the process.
But the bigger test is around the corner as the Aaron Finch-led setup, a team shorn of some key frontline players and a question mark over the participation of Mitchell Starc, their premier pace bowler, look to take this momentum into the first T20I against Pakistan early in the series. The ignominious Newlands disaster had raised serious questions over the team’s culture but the Aussies have done pretty well for themselves thus far. They come into the series on the back of tri-series success in Zimbabwe, where they managed to reach the finals and will aim to replicate the same in the UAE. Aaron Finch, who had a relatively good Test series, Glenn Maxwell, D’Arcy and Chris Lynn will be the main men in this batting lineup with both Finch and Maxwell the key considering their respective strike rates of 161.54 and 163.31 in T20Is. They are expected to counter the opposition with aggression. In the bowling department, Billy Stanlake and Andrew Tye will pose the biggest threat with the ball. Both were pretty impressive in the T20I series in Zimbabwe and are expected to do damage once again. While Australia rested Mitchell Starc against lowly Emirates, it will be interesting to see if he is risked during the T20 series after having tests on his injured hamstring. The left-arm quick battled tightness in his left hamstring and was used sparingly during the second Test in Abu Dhabi, before having precautionary scans on Friday night. He is understood to have avoided any serious damage.
A confident Pakistan, riding the Test humiliation wave, have defeated the same opposition in T20Is in Zimbabwe not long ago. This certainly gives them an advantage apart from better knowledge of ‘home’ conditions. Fakhar Zaman played a brilliant inning of 91 against the Aussies in the Zimbabwe tri-series final and would be the obvious choice to open the innings for the team. He is likely to be joined by Mohammad Hafeez at the top of the order as he did in the test series. The openers will be followed by a strong middle-order which consists of Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed.
With the number of all-rounders present in the 15-member squad, it is going to be a tough job picking the final playing XI. Asif Ali and Shadab Khan can be sure of their spot while it will be interesting to see if the selectors go with Faheem Ashraf or prefer Imad Wasim.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Hussain Talat, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Usman Khan, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Waqas Maqsood, Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali
Australia: Aaron Finch(c), Mitchell Marsh, Alex Carey, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, D Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Mitchell Starc, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa, Ben McDermott, Peter Siddle
On a more positive note, Australia have a chance to overhaul Pakistan and attain top position in the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team Rankings for the first time when the two face off
⦁ Australia will overtake Pakistan with a 3-0 series sweep, will go past India to second position with a series win
⦁ Pakistan need to win just one match to retain top position in the T20I rankings
⦁ Finch, Fakhar, Shadab and Maxwell among leading players of the shortest format to be seen in the series
Australia captain Aaron Finch leads the list of batsmen in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Player Rankings with Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman aiming to bridge the 49-point gap. Glenn Maxwell, the top ranked all-rounder, would be looking to improve his ranking among batsmen as he is currently in sixth place with 761 points, only four behind Babar Azam of the opposing side. In the bowlers’ list, Pakistan leg-spinner Shadab Khan gets a chance to bridge the gap to Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, who is the top-ranked bowler. Andrew Tye also has a chance to move up from his current sixth position.
Pakistan would start as favourites being the No. 1 ranked side in the world while Australia is ranked 3rd in this format and given Pakistan’s familiarity with the conditions and the harsh weather in Dubai, Australians would have to play out of their skins to force a positive result here.
Ready for a hardfought Series Folks!
Who is your Super 8?
Leagues up in the Lobby, Go get ’em champs!