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A tough challenge

Although they were beaten by a young Sri Lankan team last month, Pakistan have the potential to conquer Australia in Australia in the T20 series

A tough challenge

Pakistan begin their T20I series against Australia today (Sunday). The Green-shirts are number one in the shortest format, but last month’s defeat against young Sri Lanka at home has shattered the confidence of the team. On the other hand, hosts Australia crushed Sri Lanka in their T20I series although the visitors had all their senior players who were not part of the side that played in Pakistan.

Australia won the first T20I against Sri Lanka by 134 runs; it was Australia’s biggest win in T20Is. They also won the second game comprehensively, by nine wickets.

Australia’s outstanding performance before Pakistan series must be alarming for the visitors, but the Green-shirts still have the capability to surprise the home side.

They have such players as Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan.  Hopefully, they will not surrender as they did against Sri Lanka.

Pakistan batsmen will face a tough challenge because Australian conditions are quite different from those in Pakistan. The pitches there support pacers. Pakistan batsmen need to become more aggressive and consistent in their performances.

On the other hand, bowlers should be more accurate with line and length. The role of spinners Shadab and Imad will be crucial as Australian batsmen are weak against quality spin.

Usman Qadir, the son of great leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, will seek to justify his selection if he gets an opportunity. His selection has raised eyebrows as he has been selected because of his experience of playing in Australia. It has been claimed that he knows the pitches behaviour. It has also been claimed that his flipper and googly helped him be a part of the national squad.

The series will be a challenge for the new captain Babar Azam as the Aussies are a tough opponent, especially on their home ground. They proved their strength in the T20I series against Sri Lanka.

Babar is confident that he will handle the challenge. He has said that captaincy will not put any extra pressure on him. He says his side is capable of beating Australia and retaining the top position in the ICC T20 team ranking. Only a 0-3 defeat can displace Pakistan from the top position.

He said that he would continue to open the batting in the T20Is. Imam-ul-Haq will be the backup opener.

Babar wants to follow New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and Indian skipper Virat Kohli, who are not only leading their teams well but also maintaining their individual performances.

Babar proved his claim in the only practice match as Pakistanis beat Cricket Australia XI quite convincingly. Babar and Fakhar provided a solid 78-run opening stand while chasing 135.

The bowlers bowled with tight length and restricted the home side to just 134. Shadab with his leg-breaks and flippers didn’t allow the batsmen to play freely and finished with 3-30 in his four overs.

If the batsmen set a good total on the board, the bowlers have the capability to defend it.

Pakistan and Australia have met in 20 T20I series. Pakistan have a clear upper hand with 12 wins. Australia have won seven.

Australia’s 197-7 on May 14, 2010, at Gros Islet is their highest total against Pakistan. Pakistan’s best score was 194-7, at Harare on July 5, 2018.

Pakistan were bowled out for just 74 in Dubai on September 10, 2012. Australia’s lowest total also came in Dubai when they were bowled out for 89 on September 5, 2012.

Wicket-keeper batsman Kamran Akmal has been the most successful batsman with 366 runs in 12 T20Is, averaging 45.75, including two fifties.

Babar has scored 163 runs in only three matches against Australia, averaging 81.50. He also scored two fifties.

For Australia former all-rounder Shane Watson scored 282 runs in 11 appearances, averaging 28.20, including one half-century.

Umar Akmal scored 94 in Dhaka on March 23, 2014, the highest individual score against Australia.

Watson’s 81 in Gros Islet on May 2, 2010, is the best score for the Kangaroos.

Fakhar scored 170 runs in the T20 series last year. Babar is just behind him with 163 runs.

For Australia, opener Aaron Finch’s 131 is the highest score in a T20 series.

Veteran Shoaib Malik has played 16 T20Is against Australia. Glenn Maxwell has appeared in 12 matches against Pakistan.

 

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Khurram Mahmood

Khurram Mahmood 2019

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