Captain Aaron Finch took his improving form from India to the UAE as he cracked a fluent 116 and got excellent support from Shaun Marsh, who remained unbeaten on 91.
The ease with which Australia chased down the runs on a flat Sharjah wicket under lights showed the remarkable improvement in their 50-over game and also exposed the cracks in Pakistan’s ODI armour in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Ahead of the second ODI between the two sides in Sharjah on Sunday, we take a look at the main talking points.
AMIR AND SHAH WOES
Mohammad Amir's worrying form in ODIs - last 12 matches:— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) March 22, 2019
Runs conceded 388
Pakistan’s bowlers failed to make any sort of impact as the Aussies cruised to the second highest successful run-chase in Sharjah. Left-arm pacer Amir has been struggling in 50-over cricket for some time and his effort in the opening clash was an extension of that trend. Amir went wicketless in his nine overs that went for 59 runs. The left-armer has now gone wicketkless in seven of his last 10 ODIs, which is poor for any regular bowler, let alone a new-ball pacer.
Leg-spinner Shah’s spot in the 50-over set-up was anyhow under the scanner and his figures of 0-56 in 10 overs will do little to convince fans or selectors of his World Cup credentials. With veteran seamer Mohammad Abbas also in the bowling plans as of now, Pakistan’s attack has a bit of a Test match feel to it.
RING IN THE CHANGES?
Pakistan’s batting was decent. Opener Shan Masood took his time to score 40 while Haris Sohail held the innings together during his 101. However, the charge from lower-order batsmen Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim (28 each) came a bit late and maybe the top order batsmen should have accelerated earlier.
However, it’s the bowling that needs a closer look. With a proven wicket taker like left-arm quick Junaid Khan and young up and coming tearaway pacer Mohammad Hasnain in the side, captain Shoaib Malik might be inclined to to bring in one of the two. Amir has already been dropped before and whether or not he features in the second match, the pacer needs a big number in the wickets column very soon.
AUSTRALIA IN CRUISE CONTROL
Finch and his team-mates must be over the moon. They have now won four matches in a row – three in India after being 2-0 down and one in the UAE. In all these matches, the Australians looked in control for large parts, which is even better news as the World Cup nears.
For the visitors, the control provided by 20 overs of spinners Nathan Lyon (1-38) and Adam Zampa (0-44) was the most pleasing aspect as that put a brake on the scoring in the middle overs and kept the target within reach.
Finch himself was in deep trouble during the home series against India, with a technical flaw in his front-foot play brutally exposed. However, he has overcome that issue and is back among the runs, which means Australia are beginning to cover every base.
Pakistan have rested as many as six top players for the upcoming ODI series against Australia in the UAE.
The Pakistan board announced that regular captain Sarfraz Ahmed, star batsmen Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman, pacers Hasan Ali and Shaheen Afridi along with spinner Shadab Khan have been given a rest. Shoaib Malik has been appointed captain in Sarfraz’s absence.
The selectors also decided to reward up and coming fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain with a national call-up after the youngster impressed during the ongoing Pakistan Super League.
Quetta Gladiators’ Hasnain was the first pacer to breach the 150kph mark during the fourth edition of the league and was being tipped to get selected sooner rather than later.
Hussain Talat was dropped while Mohammad Hafeez was not considered as “he is recovering from a thumb surgery”. Also, mercurial batsman Umar Akmal got selected after impressing for Quetta Gladiators in the PSL.
After the selection, chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said: “I am pleased that we have been able to develop a strong bench-strength that has helped us to make eight changes from the previous series. The changes have been made taking into consideration the player workload in the build up to the World Cup
“While Haris Sohail, Junaid Khan, Umar Akmal and Yasir Shah are returning to ODI cricket, Abid Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain and Saad Ali have been rewarded for stellar performances in domestic cricket,” Inzamam was quoted as saying by the PCB website.
“Mohammad Hasnain has been identified as one of the fast bowlers for the future. The 18-year-old has not only bowled with pace, regularly clocking 145kmph, he has shown tremendous control with the ball which has earned him crucial wickets in the ongoing HBL PSL. Like we nurtured and trained Shaheen Shah Afridi, we – with the support of the team management – have decided to provide the same pathway to the Hyderabad-born lad.
“Umar Akmal, we all know, is immensely talented and still has plenty to offer. Sometimes, time away from international cricket allows a player to recompose and gather himself, and come back strongly. I hope this happens with this player, as a fully fit and in-form Umar will bolster the middle-order.”
The series start in Sharjah on March 22 and ends in Dubai on March 31. The Pakistan team leaves for the UAE on March 18 .
Squad: Shoaib Malik (captain), Abid Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Sohail, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Saad Ali, Shan Masood, Umar Akmal, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah
While questions marks have been raised over the quality of Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure, newly appointed Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) managing director Wasim Khan remains determined to overhaul it in the coming months.
The call to improve Pakistan’s domestic cricket structure has been growing in recent times with the several former players including Javed Miandad, Aamir Sohail and Umar Gul voicing their concerns.
“I’m already aware of challenges and domestic cricket overhauling is one of the major tasks,” the PCB MD was quoted as saying by Pakistan Today.
“We are planning about it and within coming two to three months we will have a clear picture.”
The former Leicestershire chief executive wants Pakistan to take a leaf out of arch-rivals India when it comes to overhauling the domestic setup
“When it comes to domestic structure it includes basics like wickets, grounds, and training facilities. When we present the model, we will also introduce an infrastructure for that as well,” he said.
“In India, they have a strong cricket structure. That is why their cricket is progressing. So, we have to take some similar steps to take Pakistan cricket forward.”
While domestic cricket remains on the menu for the PCB MD, accelerating the return of international cricket to Pakistan is top of the agenda.
“We are bearing a lot of expenses for hosting any team here in UAE. Fans are not coming in large numbers as well. Which is why, it is very important that we should bring international cricket back to Pakistan.”
Appointed as the PCB managing director following an intensive two-phase selection process involving 350 candidates, Wasim Khan officially began his tenure on February 1.