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.
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