While rain may have played spoiled the first T20I between Australia and Pakistan, there is little time to rest for both sides as the action now shifts to Canberra for Tuesday’s second match of the series.
It was hosts Australia who were left smarting by the weather in Sydney, with Pakistan ultimately lucky to walk away without a loss on the board.
However, things are now back to square one for both teams ahead of the clash at the Manuka Oval, and the stakes couldn’t be higher with just two matches left to play in the series.
An impressive captaincy debut but Babar has work to do
Babar Azam’s maiden display as Pakistan’s T20I skipper couldn’t have been a better one with the right-hander slamming his 11th half-century in the format.
The No1 ranked batsman in the world’s unbeaten 59-run (38) knock saw his average shoot past 50 once again as he rescued the visitors from a disastrous start with the bat.
While he will be delighted to roar back into form after a horrendous series against Sri Lanka, the Pakistan captain has plenty of other deficits in his side to worry about.
Opener Fakhar Zaman’s treacherous T20 form continued in Sydney with the left-hander bagging a second consecutive golden-duck. He has now scored just 108 runs in his last 11 innings in the format.
Meanwhile, the recalled Mohammad Irfan was cut down by Aaron Finch in his first international appearance in over three years.
Irfan’s second over on the night was taken for 26 runs by the Aussie skipper, with the Pakistan pacer’s lines and lengths being all over the place.
With teenage fast bowlers such as Muhammad Musa and Mohammad Hasnain waiting in the wings, Babar needs to take a call on whether to retain Irfan for the second T20.
Hosts firing on all cylinders
The return of the big guns to the T20I fold has worked wonders for Australia with their side now looking like world-beaters ahead of next year’s World Cup on home soil.
Steve Smith has looked like the missing piece since his return, while David Warner has slotted in like he has never been away. The latter, in particular, has been in astonishing form of late and has now scored 219 runs in the format without being dismissed.
Meanwhile, the bowling is looking as balanced as ever with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Kane Richardson forging a formidable pace trio.
In the spin department, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are starting to form a promising partnership as well. If anything, it is in the middle-order that remains untested for Australia with Glenn Maxwell taking an indefinite break from cricket due to mental health issues. However, as long as the rejigged team’s stellar top-order continues to fire, that middle-order will remain a shielded one.
It was no surprise then, that the Aussies rolled Sri Lanka over in emphatic fashion, and they will fancy their chances of doing the same to a No1 ranked Pakistan side.
Pakistan’s No1 crown under threat
The form of their senior players is not the only concern for Pakistan, with their No1 status under increasing threat from a resurgent Australia and England.
The Men in Green have not won a single T20 series in 2019 and have instead suffered defeats at the hands of England, South Africa, and most recently Sri Lanka.
They were lucky to escape without a defeat in the first T20 in Sydney and they will need to really pick up their form if they are avoid a loss in Canberra. They have lost six out of their last seven completed outings in the format with their 3-0 whitewash of Australia last year now looking like a distant memory.
The hosts, on the contrary, have been in marauding form in T20s and had won five matches on the bounce before the Sydney washout.
With just six and eight rating points currently separating them from England and Australia respectively, a series loss for Pakistan could easily see their No1 ranking slip away after more than two years on top.
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