I think that no other ODI (barring Australia vs Afghanistan of course) in the history of the game has ever been scheduled to start as late as 6pm local time in any part of the world. This has got to be some sort of history making moment.
HISTORY IS WITH AUSTRALIA
The last time Pakistan beat Australia in an ODI series, Waqar Younis was captain, Wasim Akram used to take the new ball, Inzamam & Shoaib Akhtar were Pakistan's most reliable assets, and there was no chance that a catch would be missed behind the stumps!
It was 10 years ago.
It was 2002.
Shahid Afridi is the only survivor among both teams from that series. The rest of the Pakistan squad have no idea what it feels like to win a series against Australia. On the flip side, none of the Aussies know what it feels like to lose a series to Pakistan.
Will this series be any different?
BELOW PAR RECENT FORM
Both Pakistan and Australia have had a torrid time in ODIs lately, despite winning the Asia Cup and CB series respectively.
Both teams have lost to England 4-0. Pakistan lost their series to Sri Lanka 3-1, while Australia drew their series against the West Indies 2-2.
Australia are not what they used to be, and for the first time in about a decade are not the top ranked ODI side. While Pakistan have tasted more success in tests and T20s than in ODIs, where they have struggled to find the perfectly balanced playing XI.
Dave Whatmore has said that Pakistan will be relying on their spinners, which comes as no surprise. With bowlers like Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, and Mohammad Hafeez any team will happily rely on spin. Even on a green top with perfect conditions for swing bowling.
Pakistan's spin trio will surely trouble the Australians relatively inexperienced batting line up. Warner isn't the best player of spin, while Wade, Bailey, and Maxwell will find it challenging to face up to Ajmal, Afridi, and Hafeez.
Michael Clarke and the Hussey brothers are key for Australia and will need to be at the top of their game.
Interestingly enough, Australia is going to rely heavily on their pace attack of Johnson, Starc, and Pattinson. The trio found good purchase from the pitch in the game against Afghanistan, and Pakistan is known to struggle against top quality swing bowling.
Australia as per normal practice have already announced their playing XI. Pakistan, on the other hand, have some thinking to do.
They have struggled to strike the right balance in ODIs for some time now. The absence of an allrounder like Abdul Razzaq has resulted in Pakistan always playing either a batsman short or a bowler short.
The return of Kamran Akmal, who can bat better than most keepers, and Shoaib Malik, who is a slightly useful bowler, might fix this problem. But I wish I did not have to see the day when Akmal Sr. and Malik would be considered as solutions to anything in this world.
Nasir Jamshed will most likely fit right back into the opening slot after missing the series against Sri Lanka. While Azhar Ali, who opened successfully in Nasir's absence, will probably fill the number 3 position, which he has done so with great success in test cricket.
Asad Shafiq will be unlucky to miss out as Shoaib Malik is likely to play to give that balance to the team, unless Misbah & Whatmore give Shafiq a chance in place of Umar Akmal. That would be a grave mistake though in my opinion.
Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir look like the 2 pacers that Pakistan will go in to the game with. I hope that Anwar Ali gets at least 1 game during the series.
Pakistan XI (Likely): Nasir, Hafeez, Azhar, Misbah, Umar, Malik, Kamran, Afridi, Tanvir, Ajmal, Junaid.
I believe this series is Pakistan's best chance to reverse the tide against Australia. Two games in Sharjah, One on a Friday, I say it calls for a 3-0 clean sweep!
Australia is vulnerable. More than they have been in recent years. They seem to be struggling to cope with the heat. The batting looks inexperienced. The bowling looks very raw.
Pakistan can strike hard. And should.
Click HERE to read more