Sri Lanka have been dusted down without much fuss and attention now quickly moves to the visit of Pakistan, a side still ranked No. 1 in T20Is but with their grasp on the top spot becoming more tenuous by the match after a significant slip in form. If New Zealand take one match off England in their series and Australia win this 3-0, they will take Pakistan’s top spot.
Still, at least on paper, the visitors should give Australia a tougher challenge than Sri Lanka, particularly with the bowlers they have at their disposal. However, it’s worth remembering that just a few weeks ago, they were beaten 3-0 by a Sri Lanka side deemed weaker than the one that has just visited.
They produced an efficient display to ease to victory against the Cricket Australia XI in their warm-up match, each of the five bowlers used showing what they can bring to the attack. Trying to stop David Warner will be another task, but he will do well to go through another T20I series without being dismissed. They could face an attack including three left-arm quicks (who, as Chris Lynn noted after the CA XI match, all bring a different skillset) alongside the left-arm spin of Imad Wasim.
Australia were very impressive against Sri Lanka, but it is difficult to gauge what was really learned from the exercise, although the chance to build form and confidence should never be discounted. The balance of the side, with Ashton Agar at No. 7, has yet to be tested with a fall of early wickets but Aaron Finch has benefited by having five frontline bowlers.
(last five completed matches)
In the spotlight
Ashton Turner had the chance for a slightly longer bat in the chase at the MCG and gave a glimpse of what makes him such an exciting package for Australia’s limited-overs teams. He cleared the boundary with ease and is a master runner between the wickets. His shoulder is still not at 100% but barring further mishaps, he is a lock for the squad in a year’s time.
This is the first series for new T20I captain Babar Azam and he has a year – presuming he keeps the job, which is never a given for Pakistan cricket – to build the side ahead of the T20 World Cup. He is a wonderful batsman, currently ranked No. 1 in T20Is, and has developed further since his previous visit to Australia two years ago. His last innings in the country was a century in an ODI in Adelaide and it will be important that he sets the tone on this tour.
Billy Stanlake, Sean Abbott and D’Arcy Short were the players not used at the MCG. It is likely that Ben McDermott will get another chance at No. 4, so it’s a case of whether Australia want to rotate any of their quicks.
Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt), 3 Steven Smith, 4 Ben McDermott, 5 Ashton Turner, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Kane Richardson
Pakistan picked their experienced players in the warm-up match, which suggests that that’s how they will start the series, although the uncapped Mohammad Musa Khan looked lively in the nets on Saturday.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Haris Sohail, 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Asif Ali, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Amir, 10 Mohammad Irfan, 11 Wahab Riaz
Pitch and conditions
The weather may yet play a key part in this match with rain, and a chance of thunderstorms, forecast for Sunday afternoon. It is the first match of the season at the SCG and while the 22 yards shouldn’t be an issue, there will be some interest in the rest of the square after the decision to move domestic cricket away from the ground last month.
Stats and Trivia
If Mohammad Irfan plays in Sydney, it will be his first T20I for three-and-a-half years.
Pakistan have only played one previous T20I in Australia, back in 2010 when they lost by two runs at the MCG. It was Steven Smith’s international debut.
A victory for Australia in this match would equal their best run in T20Is of six in a row
“They’ve played some great T20 cricket over the last couple of years. Probably a big difference is with their bowling, a lot of left-armers, with the batting Babar is No. 1 in the world and he’s such a rock for their strokeplayers to bat around him. I feel they are such a well-balanced side, have some great spin options as well. It will be a great challenge.”
“I had come here in 2012 as captain of the Under-19s, and now I am here as the captain of the T20I side. It’s a matter of honour for me. That aside, we are the No. 1 team, and Australia are a very good side now, so you should see good competition. It should be a good challenge for us too.”