Australia v Pakistan Third ODI

Thursday January 19, 2:20pm AEDT

With the series poised at 1-1, Australia and Pakistan travel to the WACA where they will clash in the third ODI on Thursday.


Australia

The Australians were brought back down to earth with a six-wicket defeat at the MCG on Sunday which squared the series. Winning the toss and batting first, the Aussies’ start was not as disastrous as in Brisbane but they still stumbled their way to 3/41 inside nine overs. From there captain Steve Smith (60 off 101 balls) shared in a series of solid partnerships with Travis Head (29 off 31), Glenn Maxwell (23 of 26) and Matthew Wade (35 off 56), however every time it looked as if the hosts were about to gain the ascendency they lost a wicket.

The tail then failed to replicate their heroics from the Gabba as Australia lost their last five wickets for just 27 and were bowled out for a mediocre 220. An early opportunity went begging in the chase when skipper Smith put down a straight-forward chance from opener Mohammad Hafeez and from there the visitors were barely troubled as they sauntered to the target with six wickets in hand and 14 balls remaining.

The wickets were shared between Mitchell Starc (2/45 off ten overs) and James Faulkner (2/35 off nine overs), while all-rounder Mitchell Marsh capped off a poor performance with 0/32 from six overs to go with an earlier golden duck.

Unfortunately for Marsh he will not get the chance to atone for his efforts in Melbourne as a shoulder injury has ruled him out of the remainder of the series with Marcus Stoinis drafted into the squad. Chris Lynn has also succumbed to a neck complaint, replaced by Peter Handscomb, while Starc will be rested at the WACA which should allow colossal quick Billy Stanlake to come back into the starting XI.


Pakistan

For Pakistan it was a first win in Australia for 12 long years, backing up the promise shown in Brisbane with a ruthless performance at the MCG. After again being asked to field first, the left-arm duo of Junaid Khan (2/40 off eight overs) and Mohammad Amir (3/47 off 9.2 overs) made the early inroads before the visitors’ spinners strangled the Australian middle-order on what was another sluggish surface.

Imad Wasim continued to trouble the home side, claiming the key wickets of Smith and Maxwell in his spell of 2/37 off ten overs, while the Aussies found it similarly difficult to score with any sort of freedom against stand-in captain Hafeez (0/45 off ten overs) and fellow all-rounder Shoaib Malik (1/15 off four overs).

But as good as Pakistan were in the field, it was hard not to be impressed by their clinical chase, albeit in pursuit of a modest target against an attack missing a frontline spinner. Hafeez shrugged off his early transgression to lead from a front with a stylish 72 off 104 balls, before another promising contribution from Babar Azam (34 off 49) kept Pakistan comfortably ahead of the rate. The final stanza was negotiated by an assured innings from the returning Shoaib who finished with an unbeaten 42 off 52 deliveries to deliver the Pakistanis a richly deserved victory.

Although they are likely to be greeted by a faster pitch at the WACA any team changes for Pakistan are unlikely with regular captain Azhar Ali not expected to be available until the fourth match in Sydney as he continues to battle a hamstring injury.


WACA Ground

The WACA has produced a fairly volatile surface in ODI cricket of late with eight of the past nine first innings totals either 200 or less, or 300 or greater. The side batting second has won five of the past seven ODIs in Perth, while Josh Hazlewood has a particularly good record in the west, averaging 14.54 in ODIs at the WACA.


Key Stats

  • Australia have won ten of their past 12 ODIs at the WACA.
  • Australia haven’t lost consecutive ODIs at home since 2013.
  • Australia has outscored their opponents in the first 15 overs in three of their past four ODIs.
  • Pakistan have won only two of their past seven ODIs away from home.
  • Furthermore Pakistan haven’t won consecutive ODIs away since July 2015.
  • Pakistan have outscored their opponents in the first 15 overs in only three of the past seven ODIs.

The Verdict

The market is now giving the Pakistanis slightly more respect, however Australian remain heavy favourites to take a 2-1 series lead.

The Aussies were stunned in Melbourne, repeating the mistakes made at the Gabba, but this time unable to be bailed out by a brilliant solo innings or by incisive bowling. While their top-order has been troubled by the moving ball early on, the chief concern surrounds their batting unit’s inability to take control against the visitors’ spinners who have made the most of helpful conditions to really trouble the hosts’ middle-order.

Granted the surface at the WACA should be less suited to Pakistan’s slower bowlers, however Australia’s refusal to play their own frontline tweaker has generally played into their opponents’ hands. Nevertheless their attack remains high quality, albeit shorn of Starc in Perth, and you get the feeling that had they been given more runs to play with then the chase would not have been so straight-forward for Pakistan.

The Aussies’ record at home remains a phenomenal one and given that it has been so long since they have dropped consecutive games on home soil I still couldn’t oppose them here.

However I’m also far more wary of taking on the visitors now that they have shown the consistency required to regularly trouble the Australians. For once they should take in an unchanged line-up, while it is the hosts shuffling the deck, and that contrast in stability can only help Pakistan’s chances of taking an unlikely series lead. Their bowling attack has been outstanding in the opening two matches, and while their spinners may find it more difficult to peg back the Australians’ scoring at the WACA, the likes of Amir and Junaid should only get better in Perth.

Doubts remain over the quality of their batting, especially when you consider their disappointing capitulation in Brisbane, so I’d want to see a more steady output in that department before I could consider backing Pakistan, but it’s fair to say I have been well and truly scared off taking the short odds about the home side.

Where I think the Australians may have a more distinct advantage is within the first 15 overs. Although Amir and co have troubled the Australian top-order, the Aussies have still managed to score at a decent rate early on, outscoring Pakistan in the opening 15 overs in both matches. The Aussies have a history of fast starts with David Warner at the top of the order, while the presence of Josh Hazlewood with the new ball makes it difficult for the opposition to get out of the blocks.

That is reflected in the data where they have scored more runs than their opponents in the first 15 overs in three of their past four ODIs. Conversely Pakistan have only outscored their opponents in three of their past seven ODIs, despite the fact they claimed victory in five of those matches. Moreover after being choked by the Pakistani spinners in the middle overs, I’m expecting the Australian top-order to adopt a more aggressive approach and will therefore be backing the home side to be ahead of the game after 15 overs.


Betting Strategy

 BACK – Australia Highest 15 Over Total at 1.50 or bigger for 1 unit


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