ODI series preview: Pakistan v Australia

Pakistan may speak of being confident of victory in this ODI series in the UAE, but one imagines that they’re rather nervous behind the scenes, given their dismal batting and lack of premier spinners.

Australia romped to an easy win in the one-off T20, where Pakistan lost nine wickets and failed to reach triple figures. This does not bode well for a whitewash avoidance, as coach Waqar Younis admitted.

Pakistan’s batting line up is weak, and without the stabilizing influence of Younis Khan. Say what you like about his reaction to being dropped, but his middle order partnerships with Misbah were often the difference between defeat and… a bigger defeat.

Shahid Afridi is there, and one never knows what he’ll do on any given day, while veteran Misbah will feel the pressure, especially as their young Virat wannabe, Ahmed Shehzad, either fails or thrills. Rarely a solid 30 from him.

The obvious weakness is in the bowling though. With Saeed Ajmal banned and Mo Hafeez injured, the spin pool is shallow, as was evident in the T20. Mo Irfan is back, but he looked like a man who hadn’t played proper cricket in a year.

As such, it’s tough to see the Aussies losing this, no matter how unpredictable Pakistan can be. Most of them are coming off the Champions LEague T20, or county cricket before that, and David Warner has been inspired by fatherhood, it seems.

They are missing Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Mitchell Marsh, but the back ups are impressive too, with James Faulkner, Steve Smith and George Bailey able to rescue the side if Warner and Aaron Finch fail at the top.

Bowling-wise, they will be thrilled with the news that Mitchell Johnson is fit to play, after he missed weeks of action with a rib injury. He, and Nathan Lyon with his spin, will be looked to for most of the wickets, though Mitchell Starc and Maxwell are able to do so too.

Key Men
For the hosts, all-rounder Shahid Afridi may have to do the job. One of the most unpredictable men in cricket, he’ll have to find some solid form to help his side out, with ball and bat.

The Aussies also have a thrilling all-rounder on the book in Maxwell, but we reckon the opening pair of Warner and Finch will be crucial. If they get going the game could be sorted in the first 20 overs.

Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2012, Third ODI: Australia won by three wickets in Sharjah
2012, Second ODI: Pakistan won by seven wickets in Abu Dhabi
2012, First ODI: Australia won by four wickets in Sharjah
2011 World Cup: Pakistan won by four wickets in Colombo
2010, Fifth ODI: Australia won by two wickets in Perth

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Fawad Alam, Umar Amin, Asad Shafiq, Sohaib Maqsood, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shahid Afridi, Raza Hasan, Mohammad Irfan, Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Junaid khan

Australia: George Bailey, Sean Abbott, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Phil Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner

First ODI: 7 October in Sharjah
Second ODI: 10 October in Dubai
Third ODI: 12 October in Abu Dhabi