Predicted to be another lopsided affair between the teams, Pakistan spectacularly lit a fuse under the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series with a gritty six-wicket victory at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to square the ledger at one apiece.Suddenly, Australia are feeling the strains of pressure having overwhelmingly struggled with the bat during the opening two ODIs and being possibly only a Matthew Wade-century at the Gabba from being in a major hole.
Ranked the No.1 ODI team in the world, the 50-over format has long been Australia’s strength testament to their incredible World Cup record having won the event four of the last five times.
However, for the first time in a while, Australia’s batting is feeling somewhat vulnerable with numerous positions having question marks next to them. Some of Australia’s vulnerability has been self-inflicted with selectors ruthlessly dumping veterans Aaron Finch and George Bailey ahead of the series with an eye towards remodelling the team in time for the Champions Trophy in England.
Injuries have also cruelled Australia’s plans with explosive batsman Chris Lynn and allrounder Mitch Marsh being ruled out for the remainder of the series. For the crux third ODI in Perth on Thursday (January 19), Australia will turn to Peter Hanscomb, who despite an underwhelming domestic 50-over record has earned selection primarily through his white hot Test form.
Set to bat at No.4, after both Lynn and Marsh were unsuccessfully trialled at that important spot, Handscomb will hope to add stability to a top-order which slumped to 5/78 and 3/41 in Brisbane and Melbourne respectively.With the WACA’s inimitable pitch renowned for pace and bounce, towering paceman Billy Stanlake will replace resting spearhead Mitchell Starc. The 204cm tall pacer has been picked to conjure bounce and potentially forms a dangerous tandem with Josh Hazelwood, another very tall paceman.
Meanwhile, Pakistan suddenly feels confident after a drought-breaking victory in Melbourne. It was their first win over Australia in Australia for 12 years, ending a 16-match losing streak across the formats.Impressively, Pakistan – the No.8 ranked ODI team in the world – has served it up to Australia, particularly with probing bowling through an eclectic attack fusing pace and spin.
Pakistan’s spinners have strangled Australia but might find conditions harder at the WACA, which has often been a graveyard for the slow men.
However, despite the pitch expected to favour pace, Pakistan is likely to remain unchanged although firebrand quick Wahab Riaz might be considered due to an innate ability to conjure bounce. This match shapes as pivotal with the victor emerging into the driver’s seat for a series victory. Much like the WACA pitch itself, expect fast and furious action during the crux third ODI in Perth.