Australia's balance in question against Pakistan threat

Big Picture

Things are starting to bubble up nicely. Both teams are entering a key phase of the tournament in terms of their semi-final hopes. Australia’s shortcomings were shown up by an impressive Indian performance at The Oval, and Pakistan have been kicking their heels since turning on the style to beat England with a washout against Sri Lanka.

If you go by recent history, Pakistan would appear a long shot for this match. But, as we well know, that isn’t how it works. Their 5-0 defeat in the UAE a couple of months ago came with an underpowered side. If they can channel the form shown against England, with bat and ball, they are fully capable of overturning Australia – it would be a huge result ahead of their marquee clash against India on Sunday.

Australia need to get the show back on the road to make a case for being serious contenders for the title. The format of the tournament means there is time to do that, but lessons will need to be learned from the India match and it will be interesting to see how rigid, or not, their game plans are. The batting order and balance of the side are raising questions with the news of Marcus Stoinis’ side injury creating a headache.

The venue for the match, Taunton, could add a few more issues to consider with some short boundaries on offer and the weather forecast remaining uncertain. All that points to win toss, bowl first.

Form guide

(Last five completed matches)

Australia LWWWW
Pakistan WLLLL

In the spotlight

David Warner is scoring runs, but not at the rate that everyone has become accustomed to and that Australia ideally need him to. In the space of three innings at the World Cup, he has twice set a new mark for his slowest ODI fifties. Against Afghanistan, it wasn’t an issue, but needing 353 against India, it left Australia well behind the required rate. Team-mates have come out in support, with Glenn Maxwell saying conditions have been trickier than expected, but Australia need some impetus at the top. At the very least, if Warner is going to soak up a lot of deliveries, he needs to bat through for a big hundred.

Four years ago, Wahab Riaz was half of one of the most thrilling duels of the 2015 World Cup as he put Shane Watson through the wringer which a vicious spell of short bowling in Adelaide. Little more than a month ago, it did not seem like Wahab would be back for the 2019 event but a typically last-minute change of plans altered that. Against England, he shipped 82 runs but, crucially, claimed three wickets to help secure Pakistan’s victory. Australia’s top order was rattled by the West Indies bouncers. Can Wahab reprise 2015?

Team news

Stoinis’ injury leaves Australia with two ways to go, both significantly changing the make-up of the team. They can either bring in Shaun Marsh, which would leave Maxwell as the fifth bowler, or add another frontline bowler which would shorten the batting order – although Stoinis hasn’t contributed many runs of late.

Australia (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3 Usman Khawaja, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Shaun Marsh, 6 Glenn Maxwell, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Nathan Lyon, 11 Jason Behrendorff

Against Australia, there is always the temptation to play more spin, so, ideally, Imad Wasim should into the equation. But the weather and conditions could have a say in team selection too. Pakistan are keen to play the same top seven from the England game and keep the batting strong; the bowling dilemma is whether Shaheen Afridi comes in, his swing perhaps more useful than Wahab’s pace.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Imam-ul-Haq, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Asif Ali, 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Shadab Khan, 11 Mohammad Amir

Pitch and conditions

Traditionally a high-scoring venue for domestic one-day cricket, Taunton’s first match of the World Cup saw New Zealand’s seamers prove too much for Afghanistan’s flimsy batting. The forecast is for a cloudy day with a chance of showers so it could again be the quicks who prosper.

Strategy punt

  • Warner has struggled to up the tempo so far at the World Cup and Pakistan have three bowlers in their likely line-up – Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Hafeez – against whom he has scored significantly under a run-a-ball and has a dot ball percentage of over 50. The bowler Pakistan may want to hide from Warner is Hasan Ali – the left hander has a strike rate of 168 against him.

  • If there isn’t a frontline pace bowler operating when Hafeez comes to the crease, Aaron Finch should quickly change the bowling. All seven of his ODI dismissals this year have been against pace. Against England he skipped down the pitch to his first ball against Moeen Ali to dispatch a boundary which kickstarted his match-defining innings of 84 off 62 balls. The short ball from the quicks is worth considering, too, with Hafeez falling 11 times in his ODI career from 161 short balls he has faced – although his strike-rate against them is a handy 126.

  • Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins will need to avoid length deliveries against Fakhar Zaman who has made positive starts in both his innings without converting. It is better to err full or short; Fakhar’s ball-per-dismissal ratio is considerably lower – 19.5 in both cases – to those two lengths compared to good length (30.5) and back of a length where he is most comfortable and has only been dismissed once in 110 deliveries.

Stats and Trivia

  • Both Nathan Coulter-Nile and Shadab Khan need one wicket each to reach fifty in ODIs

  • Maxwell’s average of 55 against Pakistan is his best against any opposition in ODIs – he has scored seven fifty-plus scores in 15 innings against them

  • In the domestic Royal London Cup, Somerset made scores of 353 and 358 on their home ground

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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