Five-match ODI series between the two sides is scheduled to begin on March 22
The upcoming series between Australia and Pakistan holds great significance, as both teams will use it to make final adjustments to their World Cup squads.
Pakistan has rested six regular members — Sarfaraz Ahmed, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi — of their playing XI for this series. These players had been playing non-stop cricket since September last year and are already a lock for the World Cup.
Hence, Pakistan has given a chance to their fringe players, who are trying to find a place in the last few available spots in the World Cup squad.
While Pakistan players were busy in the HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL), Australia staged a miraculous comeback from 0-2 down to win the series against India in India.
This was Australia’s first series-win in India in over a decade, which will make them buoyant of toppling a depleted Pakistan squad in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Head to Head
Pakistan won 32 – Australia won 62 – Tie 1
Last five games
Pakistan won 1 – Australian won 4
Pakistan team in focus
Veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik will be the stand-in captain in absence of wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed for this series, while Mohammad Rizwan will don the wicketkeeping gloves.
Keeping in mind pacers Mohammad Amir and Usman Khan Shinwari’s poor form in One-Day Internationals (ODI), Pakistan have included young pacer, Mohammad Hasnain, who grabbed wickets and headlines through his pace, in the recently concluded HBL PSL.
While at the batting front, middle-order batsman Umar Akmal has returned to the side after a gap of over two years. Akmal is the latest Pakistan batsman looking to cement his place as a hitter on the crucial number six position, after Asif Ali failed to establish himself in the 50-over format.
Openers Shan Masood and Abid Ali are in line for their ODI debuts on the back of their prolific performances for the A-team, as they try to secure the backup opener slot in the World Cup squad.
All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez is still recovering from the thumb injury he sustained during the PSL, hence making way for middle-order batsman Haris Sohail — who had to return from South Africa due to an injury.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah is back in the ODI fold with Shadab Khan being rested, while pacer Mohammad Abbas also earns an ODI call up, considering the conditions in England and Wales for the World Cup.
Australia team in focus
Australia has decided to field the same squad for this series in UAE, which won the series in India.
The banned duo of Steve Smith and David Warner has not been included in the squad, despite their ban ending before the fourth ODI of the series.
Similarly, pacers Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are almost certain picks for the World cup, but miss out from this series, as they continue their rehabilitation programs after injury.
Top-order batsman Usman Khawaja and middle-order batsman Peter Handscomb were the leading scorers for Australia in India, while all-rounders Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Turner also chipped in with important contributions at crucial junctures.
Australia’s ODI captain, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh had a poor outing in India, despite being the mainstay of their batting.
This series could be a final showdown for the spinner spot between Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa, if Australia decides to rely on their pace-heavy attack in the World Cup.
Pakistan Squad: Shoaib Malik (C), Imamul Haq, Abid Ali, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Saad Ali, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain.
Australia Squad: Aaron Finch (C), Alex Carey (vc, wk), Pat Cummins (vc), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Marcus Stoinis, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa