Pakistan’s players will be fresh from their exploits in the PSL with the team bearing a new look after several senior players including Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman were handed a rest.
Australia, meanwhile, come into the series on the back of a morale-boosting come-from-behind 3-2 win in India.
As the two teams prepare to battle it out in the UAE with a view to May’s World Cup, we cast an eye towards the three key players for each side.
The PSL has become the breeding ground of future Pakistan talent over the years and the recently concluded edition has proven to be no different, with young Mohammad Hasnain turning heads.
The 18-year-old Quetta Gladiators pacer picked up 12 wickets in just seven appearances at an average of under 18, and impressed one and all with his raw pace. Hasnain even breached the 150kph barrier in the PSL with his accuracy and cleverly disguised slower deliveries proving to be mightily effective.
His Quetta team-mate Shane Watson has already warned the Aussies to be wary of his threat and Aaron Finch’s men would do well to heed the veteran’s advice.
With Shadab Khan one of the Pakistan players to be given a rest, it will be a chance for senior leg-spinner Yasir Shah to stake his claim for a World Cup spot.
The 32-year-old did not have the best of PSL campaigns for Lahore Qalandars where he made just five appearances and picked three wickets. While his Test credentials have been in no doubt, Yasir’s ODI showings have been modest at best so far.
However, the leg-spinner will relish the conditions on offer in the UAE where he has run riot several times in the Test format for Pakistan.
Making a comeback to Pakistan’s ODI outfit after more than two years out is Umar Akmal. The right-handed batsman has been a perennially controversial figure in Pakistan figure and has constantly divided opinions with his disciplinary issues.
However, a strong showing in the first half of the PSL has been Umar earn a recall to the Pakistan squad and the top-order batsman will be desperate to seize his chance with the World Cup in England just months away.
The 28-year-old’s talent has never been in doubt but questions marks remain over his temperament. Can he remove those in the upcoming series?
Pakistan’s bowlers have their task cut out in trying to stop Usman Khawaja, who is enjoying a sensational purple patch at the moment. The Australia opener was in sublime touch on the recent tour of India where he was outstanding in both the T20 and the ODI series.
Khawaja’s last three ODI innings against India yielded scores of 100, 91 and 104 and he will be itching to keep the momentum going ahead of the World Cup.
The left-hander has previous for tormenting Pakistan’s bowlers in the UAE with his marathon knock of 141 in the Dubai Test last year helping Australia pull off a dramatic draw.
Another Aussie who comes into the series in frightening form is Ashton Turner, who was largely an unknown commodity just months ago. The 26-year-old announced himself on the international stage with a blistering 43-ball 84 in the fourth ODI against India to help Australia draw level in the series.
That knock came in just his second Australia ODI appearance, and he will know that another good display against Pakistan could seal a spot for him in Australia’s World Cup squad.
The right-hander was smacking around the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar for fun in India and Pakistan’s bowlers will need to devise a way to stop his onslaught.
The Australian leg-spinner has become one of the first names on the team sheet for Finch’s men in the limited-overs format with his recent displays.
Zampa has provided Australia with the wrist-spin threat they have desperately craved for some time now and has been evolving rapidly into one of the top leg-spinners in the world.
He has managed to trouble India’s batsmen both home and away in recent months, getting the better of Virat Kohli on several occasions. In the five-match series in India, Zampa picked up 11 wickets and was hard to get away on the slower decks.
With conditions in UAE likely to mirror the ones in India, Pakistan’s batsmen will have to be on their toes against an in-form Zampa.
Australia come into the five-match ODI series against Pakistan in the UAE in confident mood following their sensational 3-2 win over India but leg-spinner Adam Zampa is wary of the threat posed by Shoaib Malik and his men.
Pakistan have rung in the changes for the upcoming series with several senior players including skipper Sarfraz Ahmed rested for the clashes. However, Zampa believes that Malik and the rest of the Pakistan team will be a tough nut to crack despite Australia’s superb form at the moment.
“They’ve obviously got some impressive young guys,” the Australian leg-spinner was quoted as saying by Wide World of Sports (WWOS).
“They’ve rested a few players but going through their team today in our team meeting, they’ve got some really strong guys. They’ve got a really strong competition in the PSL (Pakistan Super League) as well, so they’re coming off that and some guys in the team are in form.
“We’ve come off three wins in a row with our backs to the wall, so our confidence is high but we’ve spoken about not taking Pakistan lightly.”
Zampa played a major role in Australia’s first ODI series win on Australian soil in over a decade with the leggie picking up 11 wickets in the five matches. The 26-year-old, however, believes that Pakistan’s batsmen will be a completely different proposition.
“The Indians are really good at milking, they like to go at five or six an over through the middle without taking too many risks,” Zampa said.
“Whereas the Pakistani guys go quite hard, they’ll choose a period during the game when they’ll take me on, so that’s something I’m up for.
“I’ll just do my preparation, watch a lot of footage and go from there.”
The first ODI between Pakistan and Australia takes place at Sharjah on Friday.
The explosive batsman is now a major doubt for the first ODI scheduled to take place at Sharjah on Friday after being struck with an illness.
Maxwell missed Australia’s training on Wednesday and his potential unavailability for the first ODI will be a headache for the tourists given his recent impressive showings against India.
The right-hander had been instrumental in Australia’s 2-0 clean sweep of the T20 series where he registered a half-century and a quick-fire ton in the two clashes.
While Maxwell is a doubt for the series opener, Australia have been given a boost in the spin department with Nathan Lyon participating in Wednesday’s training session. The off-spinner had been under the weather as well previously, causing him to miss Tuesday’s training.
Lyon’s availability will please Australia skipper Aaron Finch who believes the pitch at Sharjah will aid spinners massively.
“The stats from here all suggest that spin takes a bigger impact. I’ll expect them to spin,” Finch was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“We even saw yesterday the training wickets looked how we expect the middle to play. You’re never quite sure though, once there’s a bit of traffic on it they start to slow up pretty quick and spin a bit.”
“I think that will be a feature, especially the two games in Sharjah.”
Finch’s sentiments were echoed by Australia pacer Nathan Coulter-Nile who believes playing two spinners will be the way to go for both sides in the Sharjah clashes. Australia have a strong spin contingent at their disposal with leg-spinner Adam Zampa leading the line.
“Spin will be important for both sides. We’ve got two spinners, I’d be surprised if they don’t both play out here,” the pacer stated.
“They’ve (Pakistan) got quality spinners as well. It will be a good battle,” he added.
The five-match ODI series between Pakistan and Australia will serve as the final bilateral engagements for both sides before they depart for England to participate in the World Cup.
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Shoaib Malik (c), Umar Akmal, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Abid Ali, Mohammad Hasnain.
Australia: Usman Khawaja, Aaron Finch (c), Peter Handscomb, Shaun Marsh/Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Alex Carey, Jhye Richardson, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Adam Zampa.