The five match one-day series between Pakistan and Australia is under way in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The ODI series is part of the World Cup preparation for both teams.
Interestingly, Pakistan selection committee headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq rested key players Sarfraz Ahmed, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan.
Veteran Shoaib Malik is leading the side. He also led the team against South Africa in the absence of Sarfraz when he was banned for making “racist” remarks.
Left-handed batsman Haris Sohail and Saad Ali, pacers Mohammad Abbas and Junaid Khan, leg-spinner Yasir Shah and batsman Umar Akmal have been included in the side. Saad and Abbas are likely to make their debut.
Besides, young fast bowler Muhammad Hasnain has been rewarded for his impressive performances in the Pakistan Super League’s (PSL) season four with a place in the national team. Uncapped young batsmen Abid Ali and Saad Ali also have been given the opportunity to prove their skills. Muhammad Rizwan will keep the wickets in the absence of the skipper.
The Pakistan-Australia series was divided in two phases. The first phase was played in October last year, also in the UAE; Pakistan won the two-Test series 1-0 and whitewashed the Aussies 3-0 in theTwenty20 format.
Although Pakistan won the Test and T20 series, the ODI series will not be easy. First, the Green-shirts are not playing with their full strength. Second, Australia are a stronger and more confident side, having beaten India on their soil recently.
The Aussies beat India in the T20I series 2-0. In the ODI series, they strongly come back from 0-2 down to win the series 3-2. It was Australia’s first ODI series win in India since 2009. It must have been a massive morale booster for them ahead of the World Cup.
Australia are the fifth side in ODI history to come back from 0-2 down to win a five-match series.
In the fourth ODI, at Mohali, Australia chased 358, the fifth biggest target in ODI history. Over 700 runs were scored in the match and Australia chased it clinically in the end. It was also the highest successful chase for Australia, beating the 334 chased down against England at SCG in 2011.
In the absence of Steve Smith, David Warner, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Marcus Stoinis, Australia found a new hero in Usman Khawaja, who struck his maiden ODI hundred with a 193-run opening stand with skipper Finch. He has proved himself one of the finest players of spin in Australia. Usman was the top scorer with 383 runs, averaging 76.60, including two hundred.
There is a huge gap between the standard of cricket that is played in Pakistan and at the international level. The lack of planning in the Pakistan team can be called the root cause of Pakistan’s inconsistent performance.
On the other hand Australia have put in a lot of planning and patience into building the team, and now the results are there for all to see.
In the last two years or so, Pakistan won the series against West Indies in the UAE (3-0), lost against Australia in Australia (1-4), won the Champions Trophy, faced whitewash in New Zealand (0-5), beaten Zimbabwe 5-0, lost Asia Cup, drawn series against New Zealand (1-1) in the UAE and were beaten 2-3 in South Africa.
Before this series started, 98 matches were played between Pakistan and Australia. Aussies have a clear edge with 62 wins. The Green-shirts remained successful on 32 occasions.
Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting is the most successful batsman with 1107 runs in 35 ODIs, including one hundred and eight fifties, with the average of 36.90. For Pakistan Javed Miandad is the highest run-getter with 1019 runs, also in 35 matches, averaging 33.96. Muhammad Yousuf is just behind him with 1016 runs in 29 ODIs at an average of 37.62.
Wasim Akram is the most successful bowler with 67 wickets in 49 matches at an average of 27.43. Glenn McGrath took 57 wickets in 32 ODIs for Australia.
Ponting won 16 ODIs against Pakistan in 21 appearances as captain, while in the same number of matches Imran Khan remained successful on eight occasions only.
The last ODI series between the two countries was played in January 2017 in Australia. Under Azhar Ali, the Green-shirts lost the series 1-4.
Pakistan should take advantage of the absence of Steve Smith, David Warner and injured fast bowler Mitchell Starc. If Pakistan young guns beat Australia in the series, it will boost their chances in the World Cup.