• 27 Oct - 02 Nov, 2018
  • Sohaib ALvi
  • Sports

It’s not often that Pakistan have a long run in the No.1 position for anything. But they’ve been holding on to their top spot in ICC’s T20 Team Rankings for a while now. And got into the short format against Australia as a higher ranked team than the tourists, who are two notches below them at No.3.

But Australia nevertheless present a formidable opposition. They have off spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell back whom many feel should have been in the Test’s squad. Maxwell was Man of the Series in the tri-series at home earlier this year involving England and New Zealand. A couple of years earlier he hammered an unbeaten 145* from 65 balls against Sri Lanka; the third highest score in Twenty20 Internationals. He’s also one of the handful to have scored more than one hundred in T20 Internationals. The only solace Pakistan can take is that in the recent tri-series in Zimbabwe, Maxwell was sorted out by Pakistani bowlers and batsmen and did not do anything noteworthy against them.

The Australian selectors have also shown faith with rookie batsman Ben McDermott. He performed well in the BBL where he played 19 T20s and boasts a strike rate of 145.78 and an average of 34.60. The 23-year-old shot to prominence in January last year when he hammered a match-winning 114 from 52 balls.

Sticking to batting, there is Chris Lynn who has recovered from a shoulder injury and has been in red-hot form in the Australian.

ODI competition. He’s a lively batsman, best known for his exploits in the T20 arena.

On the bowling front there is cause for Australian optimism. From a year off due to injury is the fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile. He’s been endorsed by the coach Justin Langer who feels Nathan Coulter-Nile has done a terrific job to come back from injury. He’s an excellent white ball bowler and provides Australia with another mature performer in the team.

Also back is the spinner Adam Zampa whose impressive form in T20 leagues globally has got him a recall. Langer is optimistic of his chances when he says that his form with the white ball in Australia and in the overseas T20 competitions over the past 12 months have been impressive, and he’s proven that he can stand up and deliver on the international stage.

The team will be led by Aaron Finch, who recently made a successful transition to Test cricket once Dave Warner became unavailable for a year. Coach Langer backs him to the hilt when he says that Aaron, who has already captained Australia in the recent T20s in Zimbabwe, impressed with his impact on the Test squad over here in the UAE. He’s an exceptional player, and he’s arguably the most in-form T20 player in the world at the moment.

Australia have also experimented this season by naming two vice captains – Mitchell Marsh and Alex Carey, the wicketkeeper. It’s not a bad idea as you test two future captains. And you have a larger group to discuss on field strategy with.

That’s something that hasn’t been visible on the field in the Pakistan camp. Sarfraz tends to go alone and trusts his instincts. Very rarely do you see him in a huddle with senior players or even with one-to-one with his vice-captain. He was under great pressure after the first Test, but led by example and with intelligence in the second Test. The shorter game suits his style though. For the first time in over a year he’ll be without Mohammad Amir in this shorter format. Amir’s absence didn’t make a difference to the result of the Test series which Pakistan won, and it remains to be seen whether his non-inclusion affects the T20 series in any way. I thought that with him gone, Pakistan would have played Junaid Khan in the Test series and selected him here as well, especially after Junaid’s fine bowling spell in the only game he got in the Asia Cup.

Sarfraz will now rely totally on an inexperienced opening bowling attack in Usman Khan and Shaheen Afridi. Unless the team’s think tank decide to have Faheem Ashraf as an opning bowler with one of them. Once through the opening overs there is of course Hasan Ali and the spinners Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim.

Interestingly that Imad was left out of the Asia Cup squad for lack of fitness, but has been selected here without an announced YoYo test. Perhaps, his participation in domestic cricket has convinced Mickey Arthur that he will last the game. Also this is the shorter format and though fitness is as important but not as much as over 50 overs. He’s made his way at the expense of Mohammad Nawaz who strangely enough has been dropped despite an impressive performance in the Asia Cup.

Inzamam & Co have brought in Waqas Maqsood, another left arm pacer, but it remains to be seen whether Mickey and Sarfraz would throw him in at the deep end. Waqas has not done anything of extraordinary note but he did impress in the ‘A’ game against the New Zealand ‘A’ who are in the UAE. He’s a tall lad with an upright action and an extension of Pakistan’s love affair with left arm bowlers.

A tough series ahead indeed and with the Aussies hurting after the Test loss they will come in with all guns blazing. It will be no less a showdown than the gunfight at the OK Corral. •