A change in formats does not necessarily promise change in fortunes. Pakistan had landed in Australia ahead of the Test series with an aim to improve their embarrassing record Down Under. Unfortunately, all they managed was to stretch their run to 12 straight losses in Australia. Pakistan’s ODI record is not very encouraging, either. Pakistan lost 0-5 in their last bilateral series against Australia in their backyard in 2010. Their last ODI win against Australia in Australia had come a little less than 12 years ago at Perth, in January 2005. A depleted Pakistan will face a serious challenge in the upcoming series, starting Friday.
Having annihilated Pakistan in the three-Test series, Australia will aim to carry their winning momentum into the five-match ODI series at The Gabba, Brisbane. Australia had outplayed Pakistan in all departments in the Tests. Looking at the form the visitors are in, it can be yet another one-way traffic unless Azhar Ali’s team shows gumption. The veterans in Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi are not part of the ODI side anymore. Pakistan will find themselves depleted further with Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Irfan flying back home. There are fresh additions to the side in form of Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal among others, but nothing promises Pakistan a better time in the ODIs.
FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: Australia vs Pakistan, 1st ODI at Brisbane
Pakistan may have had a torrid time in the Tests, but they will draw a lot of confidence in their huge victory over Cricket Australia XI in the warm-up match ahead of the ODIs. They won the 50-over contest by a margin of 196 runs, with their middle-order — especially Babar Azam — showing rich form. Babar scored a 113-ball 98 with 12 fours in the tour match, whereas Sharjeel Khan (62) and Umar (54) got half-centuries. Malik also signalled form with a fine 49, as Pakistan scored 334 for 7 in 50 overs.
The visitors will be particularly pleased with their effort with the ball, as after a long time their bowlers were able to take all 10 wickets. Hasan Ali impressed with his figures of 3 for 18 in his 6.2 overs, but none of this promises Pakistan an end to the tough phase they have landed themselves into.
Pakistan’s bowling attack still looks formidable with the likes of Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Aamer and Rahat Ali — who featured in the Tests as well — looking to make amends. There is also Imad Wasim, easily Pakistan’s finest performer in 50-over cricket in 2016, and probably their biggest trump-card in the series.
Interestingly, it could not have become any tougher for Pakistan, currently languishing at 8th position in ICC rankings. For a direct qualification in ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, they need to be in the top eight on September 30, 2017. Evidently, a poor ODI series in Australia will put Pakistan in further jeopardy.
On the other hand, with a string of victories under their belt, Australia will eye yet another whitewash against the listless Pakistan. It was four years ago, in August 2012 in Abu Dhabi that Australia last lost to Pakistan. Since then, Australia have won 5 ODIs on the trot and their only aim will be to remain dominant.
Australia last whitewashed New Zealand 3-0, which shows their form in ODIs. However, there will be no Aaron Finch or George Bailey, who have been vital to Australia’s success in limited-overs formats. Chris Lynn and lanky Billy Stanlake will be making their debuts, whereas Josh Hazlewood — who terrorised Pakistan throughout the Tests — will be missing the first ODI.
Australia will have most of their players from the Test side, with David Warner finding a new opening partner in Travis Head. Smith will bat at No. 3 and Lynn at No. 4. “He’s got a license to play the way he wants to play,” Smith said when asked about Lynn and what is expected from the latter who has had a terrific run in the ongoing BBL for Brisbane Heat: “But 50 overs is a long time so you’ve also got be a bit smarter with the way you play, but he’s got some freedom to go out and play nice and positively. He’s been in red-hot form and hopefully he can bring that to the international stage,” Smith added.
The last time when these two teams clashed at The Gabba, Australia emerged victorious. Pakistan, too, have some good memories at this venue, having won 3 out of their 5 completed ODIs at this venue.
Australia XI for Brisbane ODI: Steven Smith (c), Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Billy Stanlake.
Pakistan: Squad: Azhar Ali (c), Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Sharjeel Khan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Amir
Time: 13:20 local | 08:50 IST | 03:20 GMT
Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit