SHARJAH: Australian skipper Aaron Finch hopes his team carries the momentum of their come-from-behind One-day International series win in India to their five-match rubber against a below-strength Pakistan starting in Sharjah from Friday.
The Pakistan series is the last chance for Australia to fill any gapes before they defend their title in the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.
Finch hopes his team keeps improving.
“It is about trying to maintain our momentum that we got in India,” said Finch of the 3-2 victory earlier this month — Australia’s first series win in India since 2009 — during a media conference at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Thursday.
The win in India — after six consecutive one-day series defeats — was a boost for the Australia team who lost two key players — skipper Steven Smith and opener David Warner — to bans for ball tampering last year.
“I think since we played South Africa in Australia we have got better and better,” said Finch of the 2-1 series defeat in November last year. “I think we are starting to get a real clear strategy in a real game plan and how we want to play one-day cricket and it is just about making sure that we continue in that way.”
Smith and Warner were available for the last two one-day matches of this series after their one-year bans expire on March 29 but they were reintegrated with the squad in United Arab Emirates (UAE) before leaving to play in the Indian Premier League.
Pakistan are also in the build-up for the World Cup, having rested six key players — skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi — to get them fresh for the mega event.
But Finch is not ready to take a new-look Pakistan lightly.
“I think Pakistan has obviously played in these conditions for a long time,” said Finch of Pakistan who have not beaten Australia in a bilateral series since 2002, losing the last five series.
Pakistan also have just one win against Australia from the last 10 One-day Internationals.
“We cannot take them lightly in any form of the game at any time. They are a highly skilled and talented team and so we are definitely giving them as much respect as what we gave India,” said Finch.
Stand-in Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik is confident conditions in the UAE — where Pakistan have been playing their home matches since 2009 attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore — will favour his rather inexperienced side.
“Every series is tough but it’s a good opportunity for young players,” Malik told reporters on Thursday. “Australia will be high on morale but we should have an advantage of the conditions.”
Pakistan are likely to give a one-day cap to opener Shan Masood after a good Test series in South Africa while either 18-year-old sensation Mohammad Hasnain or Test specialist Mohammad Abbas will supplement Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan and Faheem Ashraf in the pace attack.
The remaining matches will be played in Sharjah on March 24, Abu Dhabi (March 27) and Dubai (March 29 and 31).
PAKISTAN: Shoaib Malik (captain), Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Abid Ali, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Saad Ali, Usman Khan Shinwari, Yasir Shah.
AUSTRALIA: Aaron Finch (captain), Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, Peter Handscomb, Glenn Maxwell, Ashton Turner, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam Zampa.
Umpires: Ahsan Raza (Pakistan) and Michael Gough (England).
TV umpire: Kumar Dharmasena (Sri Lanka).
Match referee: Jeff Crowe (New Zealand).
Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2019