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Bowlers need to step up as Pakistan look to level ODI series

Malik-led side needs improvement in all three departments against Australia

PHOTO COURTESY: PCB

Australia’s thumping win over Pakistan in the second One-day International (ODI) has increased Australia’s problems in terms of selection.

Whereas, Pakistan is still searching for answers to their bowling dilemma, which has historically been their stronger suit compared to batting.

Pakistan team in focus

Pakistan gave a good account of themselves in the batting department, as middle-order batsman Haris Sohail's maiden ODI century helped Pakistan to a competitive total in first ODI.

Sohail will look to further solidify his case as the batting all-rounder for the World Cup squad during the second ODI, incase all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez isn’t able to recover from his injury in time.

Hard-hitting batsman Umar Akmal made a decent comeback to the side after over two years. However, his mistimed shot at a crucial juncture, pegged Pakistan back. Akmal will need to curb his rash shots, to make a solid claim for the World cup squad.

Veteran all-rounder and stand-in captain Shoaib Malik has not scored a single-figure score in his last 12 ODI innings. But, out of those 12 innings, only twice he has gone on to score a fifty-plus knock.

Malik will be looking to convert his starts into something substantial and lead from the front in the second ODI.

Pakistan has made great strides over the years in improving their fielding. However, their lackluster fielding display in the first ODI looked like a tribute to the Pakistan sides of the past and needs immediate attention.

Pakistan lack of penetration in the bowling department was, perhaps, the biggest let down in the first ODI.

Left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir struggles in ODI cricket continued, as he was the most expensive of the fast-bowlers and finished yet another game with a clean sheet in the wickets section.

Amir has taken only 5 wickets in his last 14 games since the 2017 Champions trophy final, which might tempt the Pakistan management to try Mohammad Hasnain in his place.

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah has not been a regular member of the ODI side. He will need to create more trouble for Australia batsmen in the middle-overs than he did in the first ODI, to make sure he isn’t sidelined again.

Australia team in focus

Pakistan was able to subdue Australia opener Usman Khawaja in the first ODI. He was Australia leading run-scorer in the ODI series in India, and will be looking to get among the runs again.

Australia captain Aaron finch and left-handed batsman Shaun Marsh had quiet outings in India.

However, both showed their prowess with the bat by notching up their 12th ODI hundred and 14 ODI fifty respectively.

Middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb started from where he left in India.  He continued to give selection headaches to Australia selectors, regarding whom to bench, when top-order batsmen David Warner and Steve Smith return from their bans.

Showdown between leg-spinner Adam Zampa and Test off-spinner Nathan Lyon for the spinner slot continued, as Lyon took the bragging rights of picking a wicket and having a lower economy rate, in the first ODI.

However both bowled beautifully in tandem during the middle-overs, backed by some energized Australia fielding.

They will once again look to keep Pakistan batsmen in check during the second ODI, which might tempt Australia selectors to pick both for the World Cup.

Death bowling remains a concern for Australia, as Pakistan were able to muster 90 runs in the last 11 overs. Pacer Pat Cummins, who was rested for the first ODI, might return to bolster that area of Australia bowling.

Probable Lineups:

Pakistan: Imamul Haq, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik (C), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain

Australia: Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch(C), Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb,  Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa