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When – 22 March, Friday, 15:00 Local Time (16:30 IST)
Where – Sharjah, UAE – the venue which has hosted the most ODIs in the world (236)
The countdown gets closer to the World Cup. Teams are trying out different combinations before finalizing their 15-member World Cup squad. Now, Australia and Pakistan are gearing up for the World Cup, in the dust bowl and heat-waves of the Middle-East.
Australia are coming to UAE on the back of a surprising 3-2 win against World Cup favourites India in their own backyard. They have found solidity at the top with Usman Khawaja, fire in the middle with Maxwell and Ashton Turner and have wicket takers in Cummins and Zampa. Add Smith, Warner, Starc and Hazelwood, they look strong to stake a claim to defend their WC title come May. As for now, they are favourites to out-do a second class Pakistan.
Pakistan are struggling in ODIs for so long now that it makes cricket pundits scratch their heads over what happened in the Champions Trophy 2017. They’ve won just 9 out of 35 against SENA countries and India since the 2015 World Cup, and three of those games happened to be the last 3 games of the Champions Trophy 2017. And to top it all, they have decided to rest their key players Fakhar, Babar, Shadab and their captain Sarfraz. Only Pakistan has the luxury to experiment now, because they have 10 ODIs (5 now vs Australia and then 5 vs England in England) before the World Cup. They will need significant contributions from their new faces and returning players if they are to topple Australia.
Players to watch out for – Maxwell is in fine all-round form. Umar Akmal is striking it nicely in PSL. 18 year old Hasnain is the new pace sensation of Pakistan, but may not get a debut in the first game.
Conditions to expect – Hot weather. Dry surface. Cracking and spinning pitch with medium sized outfield. Teams should prefer defending targets as the pitch will crack and assist spin more as the day progresses. With Pakistan in play, you could also expect reverse swing. 250 could be a winning score.
Team News –
Pakistan have only one extra batsman in Saad Ali but lot of options in the bowling department with Abbas, Hasnain and Abid Ali looking for debuts.
Expected XI: Imam, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Malik ©, Rizwan(wk), Imad, Faheem, Yasir Shah, Junaid, Amir
They could go in with the same combination which was so successful in India. They will need wickets in the middle overs, so two spinners and Maxwell might be preferred.
Expected XI: Khawaja, Finch ©, Stoinis, Handscomb, Maxwell, Turner, Carey, Cummins, Kane Richardson, Zampa, Lyon
Fantasy XI for those sharp cricketing minds-
Imam, Khawaja, Stoinis, Umar, Maxwell ©, Turner, Zampa, Junaid, Faheem, Cummins, Yasir