When Pakistan and Australia take the field on Friday in Abu Dhabi for the second ODI of the three-match series, both teams will have a lot of demons to exorcise. Though Australia won the first ODI in Sharjah by four wickets, their performance was far from convincing.
Friday’s match will be a battle between Australia's batsmen and Pakistan's spinners. Whoever wins stands a good chance of emerging victorious. Barring Michael Clarke, all the Australian batsmen struggled against Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez. Though George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell guided their team to victory, they were lucky on more than one occasion. The Australian batting is too dependent on Clarke, while Pakistan rely completely on their spinners who took all six wickets in the opening match.
Pakistan's biggest concern is the form of their opener Mohammad Hafeez, whose last five ODIs have produced scores of 14, 0, 0, 6 and 4. Of those five matches, Pakistan lost four and the other was called off. Sufficed to say, failing to get a start has been a big factor.
A middle order comprising Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq has been solid rather than spectacular. Umar Akmal is too low at No. 6 and deserves to be promoted up the order; the more he balls he plays, the better it is for Pakistan. Umar and Shafid did well in the first ODI with a partnership that revived Pakistan and set them on par for a big total, but both fell to rash shots. With the lower order imploding, Pakistan collapsed from 160 for 4 to 198 all out. Shahid Afridi has reached double-digits twice in his last nine innings and Kamran Akmal is playing his first series since the 2011 World Cup, leaving the batting with a decidedly flaccid look.
Australia’s biggest gains from Sharjah were their two young fast bowlers. Mitchell Starc took the Man-of-the-Match overs with five wickets, but James Pattinson was the most impressive with figures of 3 for 19 in 9.1 overs. The other bowlers, in particular Mitchell Johnson, were strictly passable and Australia could bring in Xavier Doherty for Johnson keeping in mind the pitch which is conducive for spinners. For Pakistan, Sohail Tanvir and Aizaz Cheema looked completely off-colour on Tuesday, and there is a good chance that Junaid Khan comes in for one of the two.
The Sharjah surface assists spinners in the latter half of the innings as the pitch gets slower, and chasing anything over 225 would be daunting for Australia given the ostensible weakness they showed against Ajmal and Co. The outcome of the first ODI could have been different had Pakistan not dropped a couple of catches, a malaise which has haunted them for years.
Pakistan: 1 Mohammad Hafeez, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Shoaib Malik, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Asad Shafiq, 6 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Shahid Afridi, 9 Sohail Tanveer, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Aizaz Cheema
Australia: 1 David Warner, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Michael Clarke (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 George Bailey, 7 Glenn Maxwell, 8 Daniel Christian, 9 Xavier Doherty, 10 Mitchell Starc, 11 James Pattinson