Test cricket might be done for the Australian summer, but there is still plenty of white ball action to be played with Pakistan hoping to get some revenge on Australia after a poor showing in the Test series.
Before the Test series against Pakistan, Australia was in some quality form in the one-day format, thrashing New Zealand 3-0. The Aussies never gave their opponents a chance to get into any of those three matches.
After losing five Tests in a row and being thrashed by South Africa away from home in the one-day format, it was a much-needed win for a struggling Australian team.
They have since found themselves winning three straight tests against Pakistan, who mentally won’t be in a good spot coming into this series.
If Pakistan can’t change their mindset – which has cost them plenty over the years, being one of the most inconsistent teams in the world of cricket – then things aren’t going to improve this time around for the sub-continent team who have often struggled on Australian soil.
Despite the form Australia looked to be in against the Kiwis, they have still found reasons to make a trio of changes to their 14-man squad. However, none of these changes have been as criticised as we have become accustomed to in recent times.
That is because the three players who were dropped – Aaron Finch, George Bailey and Hilton Cartwright – hadn’t done a lot to demand being picked again.
Finch was in some dreadful form at the top of the order. While it was looking unlikely that he would go to New Zealand if he struggled again here, the selectors chose to pull the pin early.
Chris Lynn was named as his replacement, while Bailey, with his strange technique, was also in a form rut and has been replaced by Usman Khawaja, who it would be fair to say has had a wonderful summer so far.
The other, and it has to be said surprising decision the Australians have made is to drop Hilton Cartwright, bringing in little known but in-form Adelaide Strikers quick Billy Stanlake.
For the tourists, it’s been a long time since they last played one-day cricket, having played eight Test matches since they thumped the West Indies 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates.
The Test matches, with the exception of the following series against the West Indies, didn’t go all that well, with Pakistan losing to New Zealand and Australia.
Before that, Pakistan had been in some pretty poor form, getting well beaten in the 50-over format by England away from home after being competitive in the Test series.
To make things harder for the tourists, the fitness of Mohammad Amir is up in the air and they will be without Sarfraz Ahmed who has returned home.
Pakistan’s chances are in the hands of a good mix of youth and experience who will be trying to make a name for themselves, with Azhar Ali continuing to refine his captaincy skills in charge of the limited-overs side.
But it has to be said, Pakistan may struggle for big hitters.
Azhar and Babar Azam, who are both at the top of the order, are generally grafters of the ball, and Asad Shafiq, who is likely to be in the middle order, won’t score at a massive rate early in his innings.
That will put the pressure on others to stand up and score at faster rates than normal, something that is likely to end in more wickets and a lower total following a rebuilding effort.
Last five meetings
March 20, 2015 (world cup quarter-final) – Australia defeated Pakistan by 6 wickets at Adelaide Oval
October 12, 2014 – Australia defeated Pakistan by 1 run at Abu Dhabi
October 10, 2014 – Australia defeated Pakistan by 5 wickets at Dubai
October 7, 2014 – Australia defeated Pakistan by 93 runs at Sharjah
September 3, 2012 – Australia defeated Pakistan by 3 wickets at Sharjah
Last five series
2014 – Australia defeated Pakistan 3-0 in United Arab Emirates
2012 – Australia defeated Pakistan 2-1 in United Arab Emirates
2010 – Australia defeated Pakistan 5-0 in Australia
2009 – Australia defeated Pakistan 3-2 in United Arab Emirates
2002 – Pakistan defeated Australia 2-1 in Australia
Remaining series fixtures (all times AEDT)
2nd match: January 15 at Melbourne Cricket Ground (2:20pm)
3rd match: January 19 at WACA (2:20pm)
4th match: January 22 at Sydney Cricket Ground (2:20pm)
5th match: January 26 at Adelaide Oval (2:20pm)
What to make of Australia’s changes?
While we have already touched on the players who were dropped from the side, the three additions – Lynn, Khawaja and Stanlake need to be talked about as a key point for this series.
The omission of Finch could prove to be the best decision made by the selectors in some time. The Victorian was in terrible form at the top level and couldn’t buy a run against New Zealand.
Whether Lynn is the right option to come into the squad though is another question. He has been in splendid form during the Big Bash League, sending what seems like everything he faces into the crowd.
However, Lynn does have a perceived weakness against spin bowling, and whether he can handle trying to build an innings at the next level is well and truly up in the air.
While he has publicly stated he wants to follow Warner’s path into the baggy green, his one-day domestic average is only 31.
Usman Khawaja, on the other hand, seems like a very safe selection.
He will come straight into the top order and look to help build the innings, allowing others to go ballistic around him.
The third and final selection – the shock – is Billy Stanlake, who erupted onto the scene during the Big Bash this season.
The selectors have decided to give a youngster a go, which is an idea I have no problems with, but it’s highly doubtful that he was the most deserving of a call-up, even when recent form is taken into account.
David Warner holds the key to the success of both teams
Here we go again, talking about the prolific Australian opener. His Test form was poor before he played New Zealand, but after scoring runs there and then a pair of centuries in Melbourne and Sydney against Pakistan, he suddenly looks in the form of his life.
Pakistan must find a way to put a stop to the power hitter because in his current form, the only way he looks like getting out is by getting himself out.
No bowler has looked threatening against him and simply put, he looks to be having his way with every situation that presents itself.
Pakistan must be competitive in the first match for the sake of the series
Here’s a fact – Pakistan would be written off in my book if they are not competitive or lose the first match convincingly.
The tourists are very much a confidence team – they ride with their momentum swings and have a very difficult time trying to arrest one once it’s developed.
Given they have already been crushed in the Test series, and were beaten soundly by New Zealand before that, the feeling in the camp must be a pretty negative one that could spiral out of control as their minds drift to home during the final few games of a punishing tour.
Simply put, if Pakistan are unable to compete first up, it could be an absolute blitz for the remaining four games.
Sharjeel Khan is a weapon and must fire
The opening batsman gave us just a little glimpse of what he could do when he was handed an opportunity during the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
While his knock of 40 off 38 balls in the second innings will be quickly forgotten by many – especially when compared to Warner’s century before lunch on the first day – it was the start of something that could be very special.
He is an incredibly aggressive batsman and could take a one-day match – or any match for that matter – away from an opposition team very quickly.
Sharjeel is Pakistan’s answer to David Warner and will need to play as so during the series if his side is to have a chance of pulling off some victories.
What to do with Glenn Maxwell?
Ah Glenn. What to do with Australia’s most aggressive all-rounder is probably the biggest question confronting the selectors right now.
He was sensationally dropped before the New Zealand series despite still being in the squad, and with the calls for his inclusion in the Test squad for the India tour only getting louder, surely he must play in this series.
The problem facing Maxwell and the selectors is that Travis Head and Mitchell Marsh haven’t done anything wrong to be dropped from the 50-over side.
They are the positions Maxwell would come into and he certainly won’t be taking any of the other batting positions, with solid form being displayed right up and down the order.
Maxwell shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines, but he certainly doesn’t have a place in the team right now.
If not for his comments about Matthew Wade, he probably would have a spot. Instead Marsh and Head have locked the middle-order spots down for the forseeable future.
Key game information
First ball: 2:20pm (AEDT) – 1:20pm (AEST)
Venue: Gabba, Brisbane
TV: Live, Nine Network
Online: Cricket.com.au live pass
Betting: Australia $1.27, Pakistan $3.82
Overall Record: Played 93, Australia 58, Pakistan 31, tied 1, no result 3
Last five: Australia 5, Pakistan 0
Last meeting: March 20, 2015 (world cup quarter-final) – Australia defeat Pakistan by 6 wickets at Adelaide Oval
Record at Gabba: Played 6, Australia 3, Pakistan 2, no result 1
1. David Warner
2. Travis Head
3. Steve Smith (c)
4. Chris Lynn
5. Mitchell Marsh
6. Glenn Maxwell
7. Matthew Wade (wk)
8. James Faulkner
9. Mitchell Starc
10. Pat Cummins
11. Billy Stanlake
Rested – Josh Hazlewood
Rest of squad – Usman Khawaja, Adam Zampa
1. Azhar Ali (c)
2. Sharjeel Khan
3. Babar Azam
4. Shoaib Malik
5. Umar Akmal
6. Asad Shafiq
7. Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
8. Imad Wasim
9. Mohammad Nawaz
10. Rahat Ali
11. Mohammad Amir
Rest of squad – Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan
Hours of play
|Start (AEDT)||Finish (AEDT)||Start (AEST)||Finish (AEST)|
|1st Innings||2:20 PM||5:50 PM||1:20 PM||4:50 PM|
|Break||5:50 PM||6:35 PM||4:50 PM||5:35 PM|
|2nd Innings||6:35 PM||10:05 PM||5:35 PM||9:05 PM|
*Times are subject to change due to over rates, game situation, weather
Pakistan will be somewhere near their unpredictable best to get this series underway, but it’s hard to see them snatching the win from the Australians, who were so strong against New Zealand earlier in the summer.
The changes Australia have made seem to be solid ones and it could be all over very early if Warner and Lynn get going.
Pakistan must get early wickets to be a chance, but the truth of the matter is Australia should pick up the first win – whether that trend continues as the series goes on or not though is doubtful.
Australia should pick up the win to get the series underway in a close one.
Follow Scott on Twitter @sk_pryde