Malik, Finch upbeat ahead of ODI series

Pakistan’s stand-in captain hopes his side will be up for the challenge against resurgent Australia

Malik, Finch upbeat ahead of ODI series PHOTO COURTESY: PCB

Pakistan’s stand-in captain Shoaib Malik hopes his new-look side will be up for the challenge against a resurgent Australia side as they meet in the first of five one-day internationals (ODIs) in Sharjah on Friday.

Pakistan have rested their six key players  — captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi — in order to give them well-deserved rest and allow bench players a chance to grab a spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup 2019 squad.

Malik hoped the new players — Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Saad Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain — and recalled Umar Akmal, Yasir Shah and Mohammad Rizwan will take this opportunity.

“Look, every series is a tough series so this is another tough series for us,” said Malik at the trophy unveiling ceremony. “Australia have come at the back of a series win in India, so their morale will be high, but we have taken a good initiative to check our bench strength and I am sure the conditions in UAE will favour us.”

Malik admitted Australia were a strong side, who have done well in United Arab Emirates (UAE) previously.

“They play the game in an aggressive style, so we have to match that aggression,” he said. “They are a strong team and have everything from fast-bowling to spin, so we have to be at our best.”

Australia, at the back of a 3-2 series win in India two weeks ago, are not going to take a new-look Pakistan lightly, their captain Aaron Finch said. 

“I think Pakistan have obviously played in these conditions for a long time, but coming off the tour of India it is very crucial that we managed to play some really good cricket there,” said Finch. 

He added that playing against Pakistan in UAE won’t be an easy task by any stretch of the imagination.

“Well, they have got a lot of experience in their side and have lot of experience playing in these conditions here in Sharjah.  They still a world-class team. We have seen it when we were in Dubai for the T20 series,” the Aussie captain said of the 0-3 whitewash in the Twenty20 series in October last year. “We cannot take them lightly in any form of the game at any time. They are such a highly skilled and talented team, and so we are definitely giving them as much respect as what we gave India and what we give every other country.” 

Finch, whose team is playing their last series before the defence of their World Cup title begins in England and Wales from May 30, hopes players compete for the available spots.

“It is about trying to maintain our momentum that we got in India. I think we are starting to get a real strategy in a real game plan and how we want to play one-day cricket and it is just about making sure that we continue in that way,” he said. “Obviously we want to win, that is important but leading into the World Cup and things like that is important to just keep improving the whole time.”

He added: “I think when you look through our lists probably I presume 20 players could make that 15. So, still there are a few places no doubt that are up for grabs. It is an important tour for as they are up for grabs and it is an important tour for a lot of us.”

The ODI series opener between the two sides will be played on Friday, March 22 at the historic cricket stadium in Sharjah.

The remaining matches of the series will be played in Sharjah (March 24), Abu Dhabi (March 27) and Dubai (March 29 and 31).