His inconsistent form persisting, Australia’s limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch will look to end the series on a high when the tourists take on Pakistan in the one-off T20 International here later on Tuesday.
Pakistan, after losing the Test series 0-1 to Australia, staged a remarkable fight-back in the ODI series, winning 2-1. And, the Babar Azam-led side would be hoping to avenge the ICC T20 World Cup semifinal loss to the tourists in the UAE last year when they clash at the Gaddafi Stadium in the D/N game.
Australia’s inexperienced and new-look side means that only three of their winning T20 World Cup XI are available for the one-off T20I. The most experienced of them is of course Finch, who has been plagued by patchy form, having registered scores of 23, 0 and 0 in the ODI series.
However, Travis Head and Ben McDermott’s recent form lends positivity to the side, with Marcus Stoinis expected to shoulder additional responsibility in the middle order in the absence of limited-overs specialists Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh. Adam Zampa, the sixth-ranked T20I bowler, could be Australia’s trump card against a star-studded Pakistan.
The hosts have been in sublime T20I form of late, having defeated Bangladesh and the West Indies 3-0 each post the T20 World Cup. Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan, the top-two ranked batters on the ICC T20I rankings, form the backbone of the line-up that features seasoned power-hitters Fakhar Zaman, Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah.
Pacer Shaheen Afridi leads the bowling unit, to go with Haris Rauf’s incisive pace and the skilled spin-bowling expertise of Shadab Khan, who could return after injury kept him out of the One-dayers.
The last T20I clash between the two teams — the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 semifinal in Dubai — turned out to be a thriller, culminating in Australia securing a place in the final and going on to win their maiden title.
Unbeaten till that point in the competition, Pakistan put up 176/4 after being put in to bat, with Rizwan (67 off 52), Zaman (55 not out from 32) and Babar (39 off 34) being the chief contributors.
Australian opener David Warner and Mitchell Marsh got the chase going after Finch fell for a first-ball duck, before Shadab spun a web to reduce Australia to 96/5 in the 13th over, leaving 81 required off 46. Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade brought it down to 20 off 10 with some quality strokes, before the latter was shelved by Hasan Ali at deep midwicket to add to the drama.
Wade struck three sixes in a row to seal the deal for Australia — a blitz reminiscent of Michael Hussey’s in the 2009 edition semifinal in St. Lucia. Three days later, Australia defeated New Zealand at the same venue to lift their maiden T20 World Cup title.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam credited his players for the turnaround in the ODI series after losing the first game.
“You need confidence after losing the first game. The credit goes to the players as they took responsibility and showed good efforts with the ball and the bat. There is pressure but you should back your game. I try to take most of the pressure and back my boys,” said Azam.
Aaron Finch said he saw lots of positives despite the ODI series loss. “I thought there were a lot more positives than negatives (in the ODI series). It was just that we were on the receiving end of a couple of great knocks from Babar and Imam. It’s been amazing to play here in Pakistan in front of some great fans. They’ve been supportive of great cricket regardless of whether it’s Australia playing well or Pakistan. So we’re very thankful for that,” said Finch.