Australia v Pakistan Second ODI
Sunday January 15, 2:10pm AEDT
After an ultimately comfortable victory in Brisbane, Australia will be hoping to go two up in the series when they face Pakistan in the second ODI at the MCG on Sunday.
Winning the toss and electing to bat at the Gabba, Australia got off to the worst possible start imaginable, losing premium pair David Warner and Steve Smith in successive deliveries of the fifth over, before slumping to 5/78 in the 17th over. The first sign of resistance came from recalled all-rounder Glenn Maxwell who contributed a counter-punching 60 off 56 balls, before Maxwell’s Victorian teammate Matthew Wade took charge.
Batting expertly with the tail, Wade clouted an unbeaten 100 off as many balls, reaching his maiden ODI century from the final delivery of the innings to drag the hosts to a respectable 9/268. The second innings did not begin all that brightly for the Aussies either with debutant paceman Billy Stanlake forced from the field with illness after bowling only three overs. However shortly after the towering quicks’ departure, the Australians’ luck changed, picking up two quick wickets either side of Pakistani captain Azhar Ali being forced to retire hurt with a hamstring issue.
From there, the visitors could not manage to garner any momentum and their challenge petered out, losing all ten wickets for just 176 to hand the Aussies a comprehensive 92-run victory. Canny left-arm quick James Faulkner was the star with the ball, triggering the top-order collapse and finishing with 4/32 from seven overs. Young speedster Pat Cummins also continued his impressive comeback to international cricket, claiming 3/33 from 8.4 overs.
After failing to pick a specialist spinner and then losing Stanlake early, the Australians will be thankful for the contribution of part-time off-spinner Travis Head, who made the most of helpful conditions in his tidy spell of 0/28 off ten overs. Head also made a promising 39 at the top of the order which should be enough to keep out Usman Khawaja, however Josh Hazlewood may take part at the MCG, having been rested for the series opener.
For Pakistan the day started so promisingly with Mohammad Amir’s testing new ball spell finally complemented by some good fortune and competent fielding, allowing him pick up the prize scalps of Warner and Smith in the process of capturing 2/54 off ten overs.
However it was the Pakistani spinners who really turned the screws, exploiting the surprisingly slow conditions to leave the Aussies reeling half-way through their innings. Left-arm orthodox Imad Wasim was particularly effective, using impressive variations of pace and flight on his way to claiming 2/35 off ten overs.
Unfortunately for the visitors they were let down by a couple of their faster men, with Wahab Riaz leaking 42 off six overs, while despite picking up three wickets, medium-pacer Hasan Ali also copped some punishment, conceding 65 off his nine overs. In particular, Pakistan will be disappointed to have given away 55 runs in the last seven overs, especially considering Australia only had two wickets in hand.
There were not too many bright spots for Pakistan with the bat, outside of a promising 33 off 46 balls from Babar Azam who top-scored for the fourth consecutive time in ODIs. Imad also backed up his effort with the ball with a fighting 29 off 36, however the supremely talented Umar Akmal continued his lean run of late, dismissed for 17 which means that he has averaged just 18.06 from his past 18 ODI innings’.
Captain Azhar is in doubt for the rest of the tour following his hamstring injury and while Asad Shafiq is likely to take his place at the top of the order, there is less certainty about who will take over the leadership reigns, with vice-captain Sarfraz Ahmed already absent due to personal reasons. Veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik is likely to be included at the MCG, having missed out in Brisbane with an illness, with either Mohammad Hafeez or Mohammad Nawaz anticipated to make way.
Five of the past seven first innings scores at the MCG have exceeded 290, however earlier in the summer Australia’s 8/264 was more than enough against New Zealand who fell 117 runs short in reply. Australia have won their last nine ODIs at the MCG, while Mitchell Starc averages an incredible 14.23 with the ball there.
- Australia has now won 22 of their past 23 ODIs at home.
- Australia has won 10 of their past 12 matches against Pakistan in all formats, including their last six straight.
- Australia has won their last nine ODIs at the MCG.
- Pakistan has lost five of their past six ODIs away from home.
- Pakistan have lost their last 16 matches away to Australia across all formats.
- Babar Azam has top-scored in Pakistan’s past four ODIs.
After overcoming a troublesome start in Brisbane, Australia are again firm favourites to take a 2-0 series lead against an undermanned Pakistani outfit.
While things did not appear rosy early on for the Australians, they showed tremendous adaptability and character to run out comfortable winners and further cement their reputation as the best one-day team in the world.
Even with changes to their line-up such as Travis Head moved to opener, Chris Lynn brought into the middle-order and a rookie paceman with the new ball, they were not caught out by a disastrous start, nor by unforeseen circumstances such as the aforementioned paceman being restricted to three overs.
With Mitchell Starc batting as low as number ten and Head able to contribute significant overs with the ball, their depth is unrivalled, and one fears just how dominant they might be if they can put it all together.
On the other hand a win on Australian soil seems as far away as ever for Pakistan. There may have been plenty of encouragement in the field via the indefatigable Amir and their nagging spinners, but serious question marks remain as to whether they can produce 50 overs of quality.
However the primary concern for Pakistan is their batting which seems incapable of applying the necessary pressure on a well-rounded Australian bowling attack, even more so with the loss of Sarfraz potentially compounded by the absence of the skipper. Azhar’s possible vacancy also leaves a huge hole in the leadership department, with no clear replacement in the squad.
It may be largely reflected in the prices, but I cannot overlook the fact that Australia had so much against them at the Gabba, yet still ran out comfortable winners. Without their most consistent seamer in Hazlewood, the replacement bowled only three overs before leaving the field, further weakening an attack that was missing a specialist spinner on a helpful pitch for slower bowlers. Then, of course, there was their abject start, losing half of their wickets prior to the completion of the 17th over including their two key batsman for a combined contribution of only seven runs.
It’s hard to see Australia giving their opponents the same opportunity in Melbourne and the possible inclusion of Hazlewood only strengthens their cause, while Pakistan could be weakened further by the loss of their captain. Then you take into account Australia’s impenetrable record at home in this format, which sits in direct contrast to Pakistan’s long list of failures down under and it’s hard not to make a case for the home side providing value. It’s not often that I advise taking such a skinny price, however I cannot ignore the odds on offer for the hosts and will therefore make a significant investment on Australia to continue their winning ways.
However if you’re looking for a more conservative strategy, then it’s hard to ignore the claims of precocious Pakistani batsman Babar Azam. After a tough time in the test series, Babar looks far more at home in the coloured clothing where he averages in excess of 50 at the impressive strike-rate of 92.54. Moreover Babar has top-scored for Pakistan in his last four ODIs and with some of his premium competition such as Azhar and Sarfraz not in the frame, I’m happy to back him to top-score yet again here.
BACK – Australia at 1.20 or bigger for 5 units.
BACK – Babar Azam Top Pakistan Batsman at 6.00 or bigger for 1 unit.