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Preview: Gul, Razzaq return to give Pakistan edge in first T20

September 05, 2012


Pakistan have had the better of Australia in the last couple of T20 encounters. -Photo by AFP

Match: 1st T20i Pakistan vs Australia (3 match series)

Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Date & Time: Wednesday September 5th 2012, 21:00 PST / 16:00 GMT

Overall Rivalry: Edge; Pakistan 4 wins Australia 3 wins

Momentum in the last 5 encounters: Come Back; Australia-3 Pakistan-2

Weather Report: Summer Desert Nights. Clear sky and a low of 31 Celsius. Will remain hot and humid with winds from 5 to 15 km/h.

22 Yard Report: The pitch will again lack pace and offer plenty of grip and turn for the slower bowlers. However, it has previously also provided some assistance to the faster men. Highest score batting first on the surface has been 161 and the team batting first will benchmark 150. For Pakistan, four out of five wins on this ground have come while chasing. Keeping in mind the impact of dew and their success chasing on this ground, they might uncharacteristically want to bat second for a change.

Game On: T20 is a format Pakistan finds itself most comfortable in with plenty of all-rounders in the team. However, they have not had the success they would have ideally liked in the shortest version of the game and are placed as low as sixth in the current ICC rankings. Australia, on the other hand, is ranked three places below at 9, under Bangladesh. Both teams will desperately try to improve on those rankings to get much needed respectability.

All three games in the series will be played at the same venue in Dubai and will set the tone for the ICC World T20 which follows in Sri Lanka.

Mohammad Hafeez will take the reign over as captain from Misbah-ul-Haq and will look to stamp his authority as the best choice leader in the country. His performance in this format will directly influence his chances of being Misbah’s successor in the other two forms of the game.

George Bailey, who has only played four T20 internationals made his debut as captain earlier this year, will lead the Australian team. He has won two out of four games that he has played and captained for Australia and will be eager to pay back the trust vested in him by Cricket Australia.

The two teams are evenly matched and they have already developed some history between them. Michael Hussey has scored more runs against Pakistan than any other team and his semi-final steal is still fresh in the memory of most Pakistanis. Pakistani ace Umar Gul will also make his come back into the side who has taken 10 wickets at 10 a piece against the Aussies including a four for eight at the same venue bulldozing Australia for a mere 108.

As always, there will be plenty of rivalries within the Australia-Pakistan contest. However, the main focus of this series will be to get the right combination going before the upcoming ICC event.

Game Changer: Dew has played its part earlier in the series and the game will start at 8pm instead of 6pm. It will be interesting to see if conditions play as big a part in the total of 40 overs that will played. Australia, already rubbed on the wrong side of the green in Abu Dhabi last week, will look to win the toss and field first.

Pre-Game Talk: “It’s disappointing not to win the one-day series but the confidence is still high that we have got a good Twenty20 side and I am confident that we can beat Australia,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez is optimistic and is looking to set the record straight.

“Any momentum that we can take into Sri Lanka will be excellent,” Australian captain George Bailey already has one eye on the World T20.

Last XI Fielded Australians: 1 David Warner, 2 Shane Watson, 3 Michael Hussey, 4 George Bailey (capt), 5 David Hussey, 6 Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Daniel Christian, 8 Brett Lee, 9 James Pattinson, 10 Clint McKay, 11 Xavier Doherty.

Last XI Fielded Pakistanis: 1 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Umar Akmal, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Khalid Latif, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Shakeel Ansar (wk), 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Mohammad Sami 10 Yasir Arafat, 11 Saeed Ajmal.

Possible Changes: Brett Lee is the only Australian missing in the squad that featured in its last T20 international against the West Indies. Shane Watson and Pat Cummins return after nursing injuries while 41 year old veteran Brad Hogg has been included into the side after his success in the Big Bash during the Australian summer. Cameron White will also get his chance sooner or later in the series. Chop and change friendly Pakistan has three players missing in the squad from its previous match against Sri Lanka and is expected to experiment more with its playing XI. Star all-rounder Shahid Afridi will be missing in action due to injury concerns. Imran Nazir, Abdul Razzaq and Umar Gul are all expected to make come backs and give the Pakistan team depth and experience.

Trivia: Who is the only Australian cricketer other than George Bailey to have made his international debut as Australian captain? (Answer will be published in the 2nd Pakistan vs Australia T20 preview)

Answer to the previous quiz: Pakistan has had as many as 16 ODI captains after the retirement of Imran Khan in 1992.

Final Words: Pakistan is always hailed as a talented bunch of cricketers and has a good shot at winning the World T20 again if they play to their potential and are able to keep focus. Australians on the other hand are thorough professionals and play the game as hard as anyone. Both teams need to use this series as an appetizer for the main course that follows in Sri Lanka. In the famous words of the late Steve Jobs “stay hungry, stay foolish”; in Pakistan’s case they normally follow the latter but hopefully their appetite will crave some silverware.