Following two crushing losses in Sharjah at the hands of Aaron Finch and his men, Pakistan find themselves trailing 0-2 in the five-match series with no more margin for error.
As the two sides get ready for a pivotal clash, we take a look at the key talking points heading into Abu Dhabi.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH PAKISTAN’S BOWLERS?
Granted, this is a Pakistan side missing several senior stars including Sarfraz Ahmed but the listless displays by the bowling unit in the two Sharjah defeats has thrown up some big questions.
In both matches, Australia cruised to their targets without barely breaking a sweat.
Just four wickets in the two games is a testament to Pakistan’s bowling struggles. Senior leg-spinner Yasir Shah has barely created any impact in Shadab Khan’s absence while Mohammad Amir’s ODI woes continue unabated.
Faheem Ashraf has failed to replicate his Pakistan Super League (PSL) form with Test specialist Mohammad Abbas and rookie Mohammad Hasnain the only bowlers who have impressed.
To complicate things further, Faheem has been rested for the remainder of the series as well leading the make-up of Pakistan’s bowling attack on Wednesday to anybody’s imagination.
AUSTRALIA SOUND WORLD CUP WARNING
With each passing game, Australia are starting to look like real contenders for the 2019 World Cup in England which gets underway in two months. Having hit unprecedented lows in the limited-overs format last year, the Aussies were reeling in the absence of the banned David Warner and Steve Smith.
However, it has taken just under a month for Finch and his men and turn it around and how. Having bounced back heroically after trailing 0-2 to India in their own backyard, the Aussies are now dishing out the same punishment to their subcontinent neighbours.
Skipper Finch has struck back-back tons after not being able to buy a run to save his life earlier while Usman Khawaja is currently in the form of his life. Even Shaun Marsh is now scoring runs in the UAE after a disastrous Test series last year.
It is worth noting that this is a side still missing their key pacers in Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood in addition to Smith and Warner.
The five-time word champions are peaking at the right time and another series clinching win on Wednesday should have the rest of the cricketing fraternity worried.
300-BARRIER CRUCIAL FOR PAKISTAN’S HOPES
If there is one thing Pakistan have learned from their two defeats – apart from their bowling woes – it is that failure to breach the 300-run mark will always prove costly against top sides.
While they did well to recover from an early wobble in the first ODI, they were on course to post a 300 plus total in the second before somehow missing the mark. With Australia’s batsmen in such irresistible form at the moment, Pakistan are going to find it hard to win any games if they do not score at over six runs an over.
Their T20 credentials are unquestionable but the Men in Green have some work to do with their batting intent if they are to make a serious run in the World Cup in England.
If they are to finally challenge Australia with the bat in the series, the tempo will have to come from the top for Pakistan where opener Imam-ul-Haq has been off colour so far while Shan Masood has shown his ability only in patches.
With bowling coach David Saker having resigned from his position last year, Griffith has been appointed to take the role in the upcoming World Cup while Cooley will take over for the Ashes series to follow in England.
Cooley had been the bowling coach for England during their famous Ashes triumph in 2005 where he helped forge a formidable unit comprising of Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison.
The 53-year-old then joined the Aussie coaching staff for the subsequent Ashes in 2006-07 where he helped the hosts regain the urn Down Under.
Cooley has already served as Australia’s bowling coach in their recent 3-2 ODI series triumph in India and is currently a part of Justin Langer’s staff in UAE where the national team are taking on Pakistan.
Griffith, meanwhile, was previously the bowling coach in Langer’s staff for the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA).
“We are fortunate to have Adam join us for the World Cup, and Troy continuing with us for the Ashes Series in England,” head coach Langer stated.
“Troy has been with us for our successful tour of India and the current tour of UAE. He’s been a fantastic addition to our coaching team, and brings a great wealth of knowledge, experience and success having coached Australian and England teams in England.
“His focus will be to prepare our Test bowlers for what’s shaping as an exciting Ashes Series in tough English conditions.”
Australia currently lead the five-match ODI series against Pakistan by 2-0 with two comprehensive victories in Sharjah. The third ODI between the two sides will take place at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old hurt himself during the 11th over of Pakistan’s innings while fielding in the deep and would play no further part in the match subsequently.
The young pacer was later confirmed to have dislocated his right shoulder by Cricket Australia and will return home to Perth on Monday where he will undergo further scans.
The fast bowler now faces a race to be fit in time for the 2019 ICC World Cup which begins in England on May 30. Meanwhile, Australia will not name a replacement for Richardson for the remainder of the series.
Skipper Aaron Finch lamented the injury to the promising youngster but expressed his hope for a quick recovery.
“It’s horrible to see. It makes your stomach sink,” Finch was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
“You feel for him. He put his body on the line, trying to save a boundary. He was bowling beautifully. But he’s a good kid, I’m sure he’s going to come back much stronger whenever he does. Hopefully – fingers crossed – it’s all good.
“It (Richardson’s shoulder) went back in pretty easily, so that’s always a good sign.”
Richardson has impressed highly for Australia in the past few months and is the leading ODI wicket-taker for his country in 2019 with 17 wickets.
He was among the wickets in the second ODI against Pakistan as well before sustaining the injury. The pacer had removed both Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Shan Masood before he had to ultimately leave the field.
Australia currently lead the five-match series 2-0 after their comprehensive eight-wicket win on Sunday. The third ODI between the two sides will take place at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.