Australia started their four-match sub-continent run in the ICC World Cup (WC) 2019 with a loss to India, but will hope to get back to winning ways against Pakistan, a side they have won three of their last four WC H2H encounters.
Furthermore, the Aussies have won 14 of their last 15 H2H matches, including an eight-match winning streak since their last loss in Jan 2017. The 36-run loss to India was their first in nine WC matches, and coming as it did after two wins this edition, it isn’t yet time for alarm bells.
However, there are reasons enough to worry – David Warner’s sedate 56 off 84 balls, 48 of which were dots, raises doubts over the flexibility of this side in pushing the run rate. Had it not been for a breezy 55 off 35 balls from Alex Carey, the losing margin could have been even bigger on Sunday.
Up against them are an unpredictable and yet extremely dangerous Pakistan, who have an even spread of results in the tournament (W1, L1, NR1). Regardless, the fact that their NRR is a negative 2.412 puts pressure on Pakistan to move beyond the sentimental belief that their victorious 1992 WC campaign also started with the same spread.
Before the start of this week’s fixtures, with just one representative in the top-20 batters and top-10 bowlers, Pakistan look an inconsistent lot. The consistent failures of their openers Fakhar Zaman (58 runs) and Imam-ul-Haq (46), so often their ticket to success over the past couple of years, puts them on the back foot.
Nevertheless, the sudden surge in their bowling levels, led by Wahab Riaz’s excellent use of reverse swing, makes Pakistan a dangerous side to be written off at any stage of the match.
AUS vs PAK – Probable XI
Aaron Finch (C), David Warner, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey (WK), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa.
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c & wk), Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali.
AUS vs PAK – Players to watch out for
A whirlwind knock of 28 off just 14 balls from Australia’s Glenn Maxwell put India on tenterhooks, before he lost his bearings in the wake of a mounting asking rate.
Mohammad Amir (five wickets, ER 5.81) has found a new lease of life and is close to finding his perfect rhythm. His swing up front could be just the start Pakistan would want to calm their nerves.
Australia’s Steve Smith averages 55.66 and has five 50+ scores in ten knocks against Pakistan.
Four of Australia’s last five WC losses have been to sub-continent teams. Australia have won 19 of their last 20 WC matches fielding first.
Pakistan, on the other hand, have won eight of their last ten WC matches batting first.
Pakistan last defeated Australia at a neutral venue (outside UAE and Pakistan) in the 2011 WC.