Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time running out for Pakistan

Pakistan need to provide more support to Shahid Afridi if they are to stay alive in the five-match series.

Match facts

May 1, 2009
Start time 3pm (11.00GMT)

Big Picture
Australia are one win away from wrapping up the series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, but not much talk has centred around the team's on-field performance. Since the offspinner Saeed Ajmal was reported for a suspect action the sides have been under more intense focus than during the opening three matches.

Ajmal was fined by the Pakistan Cricket Board for comments directed to Shane Watson and Younis Khan asked why Australia are involved in so many controversies when they face India and Pakistan. Michael Clarke maintained the series had been played in a good spirit.

The talking points will shift to the middle during Friday's fourth ODI in Abu Dhabi. Australia lead 2-1 in the five-match contest - Pakistan lost 10 for 76 in Monday's defeat - as they finalise their preparations for the start of their engagements in England in June.

Form guide (last five ODIs, most recent first)
Pakistan LLWLL
Australia WWLWL

Watch out for
Shahid Afridi has been outstanding in the opening three fixtures and remains Australia's biggest threat. His 10 victims at 10.70 have caused the most problems, but his 71 runs have also been a headache. The worry for Pakistan has been finding people to offer him significant assistance.

He hasn't been as effective as Afridi, but Nathan Hauritz has been a key performer for Australia. Since coming back into the one-day team in January he has 13 wickets in nine games and in this series has five at 18.60 along with an economy rate of 3.57. The prospect of more spinning surfaces in the remaining matches will lift his mood further.

Team news
Brett Lee is in town after joining the squad this week, but he won't bowl on Friday and is unlikely to be picked until the Twenty20 to end the tour. The rotation of the attack is the main issue for the squad, with Stuart Clark keen for more work and Ben Hilfenhaus, Nathan Bracken, Ben Laughlin and Doug Bollinger also in the outfit.

Australia (possible) 1 Brad Haddin (wk), 2 James Hopes, 3 Shane Watson, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 Callum Ferguson, 7 David Hussey, 8 Nathan Hauritz, 9 Stuart Clark, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Doug Bollinger.

Yasir Arafat replaced Shoaib Akhtar in the previous game, but with Pakistan needing to win to stay in touch Shoaib could be recalled to provide some firepower. Ajmal will be feeling vulnerable despite some encouraging returns.

Pakistan (possible) 1 Salman Butt, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Younis Khan (capt), 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Umar Gul, 9 Shoaib Akhtar, 10 Iftikhar Anjum, 11 Saeed Ajmal.

Pitch and conditions
The conditions in the UAE, with the low and spinning pitches, are unusual for the Australians, but the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin has been enjoying it. "The beauty about international cricket is you get the opportunity to play on so many different wickets," he told AAP. "The wickets are a bit slower and lower than they are in Australia and they turn a bit more, but that's the beauty of it, we're playing in different conditions against a totally different side." A similar surface is expected on Friday, when the temperature is predicted to range between 25 and 41C.

Stats and Trivia

* In a tough tournament for batsmen, James Hopes leads the run-list with 111, one ahead of Salman Butt
* Australia have not won a one-day series since sweeping aside Bangladesh in September
* Only three half-centuries have been scored in the series

"You see a lot now in one-day games, teams consistently getting up near the 300, but as we've seen here all the games have been a contest and I think that's all you're after ... It's enjoyable sometimes to come and play on different wickets and have different plans in mind, to get 220 is a very good score in these sorts of conditions, so it's been quite good."
Brad Haddin

"We will learn a lot from this experience, by playing against the Australian team."
Younis Khan