Australia toured UAE in October last year. They lost the Test series 1-0 and were whitewashed 3-0 in T20Is. They will now, ahead of the World Cup, will play Pakistan in a five-ODI series.
Including their captain Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan have rested as many as five players in order to keep players fresh for the 2019 World Cup. Shoaib Malik will lead the side.
Probable XI for Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah
Australia are likely to play the same winning combination that they featured in the final ODI against India last week.
Probable XI for Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey (wk), Jhye Richardson, Pat Cummins, Jason Behrendorff, Adam Zampa
We have opted for a fantasy cricket team on the basis of players’ impact, recent performances, and credit points.
My XI: Alex Carey (wk), Imam-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Usman Khawaja (c), Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Imad Wasim (vc), Pat Cummins, Mohammad Amir, Adam Zampa
The average first and second innings scores at Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium read 223 and 189 respectively. The highest score registered here is 364 for 7 by Pakistan against New Zealand.
Pakistan have won 83 of 124 here, while Australia have won 14 of 22.
Steven Smith and David Warner’s ban will conclude in the end of March, but Australia decided not to include them in the squad. Going by the recent turn of events, Australia do not look fallible the way they did before the India tour. They beat India in their den despite being 2-0 down and that too without Smith and Warner.
The PSL seem to have exhausted the players, and the selectors decided to rest the key players, leaving the leadership onus on the veteran Malik. Come to think of it, this will test Pakistan’s bench strength, also helping them lay down contingency plans.
Khawaja was adjudged Player of the Series against India in ODIs: his scores read 50, 38, 104, 91, and 100, suggesting that he got accustomed to the conditions and learned from his mistakes as the series progressed. He would not change his tactics in UAE.
His opening partner and captain Finch, despite his 93-run innings, struggled to find his lost mojo. Pakistan will feed on his weakness of playing against in-swingers. For that, they have the rampant Mohammad Amir. He took 13 wickets in 9 games in PSL.
In the absence of Shadab Khan, Pakistan have added leg-spinners Yasir Shah and Abid Ali. Australia too have a wrist-spinner in Zampa who took 11 wickets in 5 matches against India. However, it was the pace of Cummins that did maximum damage: his 14 wickets were the most in the series.
Handscomb turned out to be a surprise package. His hundred in the fourth match changed the complexion of the game. Eventually, he accumulated 236 runs at 47.2.