Australia v Pakistan
Friday March 25, 8:30pm
Friday night sees the must-win World T20 Cup clash between Australia and Pakistan at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali.
While a loss would still see them retain a mathematical chance of progressing, the reality is that if Australia are defeated here they will require a huge win over tournaments hosts India to reach the semi-finals. After going down to New Zealand in their opening game, the Aussies fought their way to a nervy win over Bangladesh on Monday night.
Three wickets to Adam Zampa helped restrict the Tigers to 5/156 from their 20 overs, before Usman Khawaja’s classy 58 off 45 held together the chase which was eventually reached with nine balls to spare and three wickets in hand. After excelling with the ball against the Black Caps, both Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh endured a tough night against Bangladesh, conceding a combined 24 off two overs.
Maxwell and Marsh were also part of a faltering middle-order which lost 6/57 against the Bangladeshis before noted finisher James Faulkner kept his cool to hit the winning runs. While Maxwell’s position in the starting XI should be secure there is a chance that Marsh will be omitted in favour of opener Aaron Finch which could see Shane Watson drop further down the order.
For Pakistan it is do-or-die following successive losses to New Zealand and India after beating Bangladesh in their first fixture. They will be hoping to call on Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz who both missed the last match against the Black Caps through injury. Pakistan’s highly-skilled bowling attack was also largely absent against the Kiwis, with the normally reliable Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Irfan and Shahid Afridi all conceding more than ten runs an over as New Zealand powered their way to 5/180.
An explosive 47 off 25 balls from opener Sharjeel Khan gave Pakistan some hope before their middle-order stalled and they ultimately fell 22 runs short. While Sharjeel had no problems finding the boundary, fellow opener Ahmed Shehzad has struggled to accelerate in the last two matches, scoring at a turgid strike-rate of 91.67.
In the field, left-arm orthodox Imad Wasim has been the quiet achiever for Pakistan, conceding just 6.50 runs an over of the course of the tournament. Pakistani captain Afridi has indicated that if his side does go down on Friday it would likely be his last match in this format for his national side.
Punjab Cricket Association Stadium
Pakistan should at least knows the conditions well, having played in Mohali on Tuesday. That pitch was one that suited the bat against the new ball, with both sides scoring in excess of nine an over during the powerplay. The spinners also proved to be more effective than the quicker bowlers, conceding 7.50 runs an over compared to the 8.71 leaked by the seamers. New Zealand’s win batting first continued the trend from last year’s IPL where the chasing side won only one out of four games.
- Australia have won only three of their past ten T20Is in Asia.
- Australia have won only two of their past eight T20Is against Pakistan.
- Australia have lost six of their last eight World T20 matches.
- Pakistan have won only two of their last seven T20Is when batting second.
- Pakistan have only once failed to qualify for semi-finals of the World T20 tournament.
Despite two unconvincing displays thus far Australia are strong favourites to consign Pakistan to an early exit with Afridi’s side clear outsiders.
There are plenty of reasons to fancy the underdog here, not the least of which being the contrasting record of these sides in the conditions and in this tournament where Pakistan have only once failed to reach the last four while Australia have dropped six of their last eight matches.
Pakistan also have a favourable record against the Aussies in this format and in Afridi and Imad have two high-class spinners who can exploit Australia’s weakness against the turning ball.
There’s no doubt that Pakistan’s current price is too high, however as they are such a volatile side and notoriously poor front-runners it is probably wise to look for opportunities to trade out.
Their record batting second is also a concern and in the event that they bat first it would be best not to be too heavily against the Australian top order on a pitch that suits the new ball coming onto the bat. Therefore I’ll be backing Pakistan pre-match then look to lay off around the innings break.