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Preview: Pakistan will look to keep Australia on the mat

September 06, 2012

Pakistan appeared sharp in the field and, coupled with incisive bowling, seemed like a boxer that kept coming at the Aussies. -Photo by AP

Match: 2nd T20 Pakistan vs Australia (Pakistan lead the 3 match series 1-0)

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

Date & Time: Friday Sep 7th 2012, 21:00 PST / 16:00 GMT

Overall Rivalry: Leading; Pakistan 5 wins Australia 3 wins Momentum in the last five encounters: Edge; Pakistan-3 Australia-2

Weather Report: Partly cloudy in the evening but no chances of rain. Low of 31 Celsius with a heat index of 38 Celsius. It will remain hot and humid as the both teams count down their last days what were possibly the toughest conditions in recent memory.

22 Yard Report: If the first game was anything to go by, it will again be the bowlers who will make merry. The Pakistani chase though indicated that there was enough for the batters as well. The crowd at T20 matches enjoys runs in boundaries but it is the even contest between leather and willow that provides the most absorbing cricket.

Game On: Australia went into the T20 series with the confidence and momentum of the ODI series win behind them. All of that changed as T20 fast bowling ace Umar Gul trapped Shane Watson plumb in front in his first over. The Australian batsmen could never find any sort of fluency in the innings after that. They lost a wicket at every attempt made to up the ante by either finding a fielder in the deep or being outfoxed by a Pakistani bowler.

Pakistan went into bat with the combination of Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir and the in-form Nasir Jamshed was pushed down to the number 3 spot. It is quite clear that even at the age of 30, Nazir needs a stable head at the other end to keep him from jumping down the pitch every two deliveries. Therefore, Pakistan should stick to this order unless the situation demands otherwise.  The top order looked comfortable but it was Kamran Akmal’s little flurry of boundaries that was most pleasing. His form will be vital for Pakistan at the World T20 simply because he can fit into any position with ease. Pakistan looked comfortable chasing the small total of 89 and required on 15 overs. The Australian bowlers could do little against an uncharacteristically clinical performance from their opponents.

Pakistan appeared sharp in the field and, coupled with incisive bowling, seemed like a boxer that kept coming at the Aussies.  The home side took eight catches without dropping any. This included a surprise from Kamran Akmal, winning him the best catch award amidst a string of never ending $500  cash rewards.

Hafeez was decisive with his captaincy and biggest difference between him and Misbah-ul-Haq was that he kept his strike bowlers on when the Aussies were down.

Robin Jackman, while commenting on the match, perfectly summed up Pakistan’s performance by saying: “This format suits Pakistan more than any other team because it doesn’t give them enough time to self-destruct.”

Things change very fast  and just two days after winning the ODI series, the Australians find themselves with a lot to prove. The role reversal also extends out to the two new captains. Considerable pressure is mounting up on George Bailey while a relatively calm Mohammad Hafeez finds himself in a good position. Some captains crack in a situation like this but great leaders relish an opportunity to stand and deliver under the spotlight.

Pakistan will take a lot of confidence from the first game and look to keep the Aussies down in the second. However, the professional Aussie outfit is bound to bounce back and strike a counter punch in typical Australian fashion. Pakistan cannot afford to be complacent, which has happened much too often in the past, and must take the series in the second T20.

A sell out crowd is expected to come on Friday evening looking to chant “Dil Dil Pakistan” at the fall of every Australian wicket.

With large support in stadiums, a warm climate and most importantly sticky wickets, it seems apt that Pakistan plays most if not all its home series here until international cricket returns to Pakistan again.

Game Changer: So much has been said about the impact of Saeed Ajmal during this series and he has managed to live up to expectations every time. How the Australians tackle him during his four over spell will be crucial in their pursuit to level the series and stretch Pakistan into a third game final.

"I know all the boys are watching a lot of video on how to read him and how to play him differently. Kumar Sangakkara plays him a totally different way to the way the Australians play him … we are looking at that aspect of playing Ajmal," David Hussey said a few days ago and perhaps Australia will look to counter Ajmal the Sri Lanka way.

Pre-Game Talk: "Completely outplayed. The pitch was a little bit slow, but the top order need to bat for longer and score more runs, that is the name of the game in T20. We are working towards the World T20, and this is the first step towards that." Captain Bailey identified the batting failure but failed to recognize that Wednesday was actually a step backwards.

"Great team effort. Bowlers stuck to their plans, Raza Hasan showed a lot of character for a debutant." Hafeez backed the 20-year- old in the post match presentation and he could well be a good replacement for Abdur Rehman in the coming future.

Last XI Fielded Australians: George Bailey (capt), Shane Watson, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Michael Hussey, Glenn Maxwell Matthew Wade, David Warner, Cameron White

Last XI Fielded Pakistanis: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Raza Hasan

Possible Changes: Australia might have missed a trick by not playing Brad Hogg and could look to rectify that on Friday by potentially sacrificing a batsman and changing the balance of the team. It seemed Bailey quickly realised the importance of spin on this track and opened the bowling with a part time off-spinner Glenn Maxwell. Pakistan is most likely to field its winning combination. Unlike the first game, Abdul Razzaq will also hope to chance his arm with the ball.

Trivia: Who is the only cricketer to have scored over five hundred runs and taken over fifty wickets in T20 Internationals? (Answer will be published in the 3rd Pakistan vs Australia T20 preview)

Answer to the previous quiz: Prior to George Bailey only Dave Gregory had made his International debut as Australian captain in the very first test match of International cricket back in 1877.

Final Words: Pakistan has quickly jumped two places to fourth position in the ICC ranking leapfrogging West Indies and India in the process. Australia on the other hand now shares its number 9 spot with Ireland. These rankings will mean little when the two sides take the field on Friday and if anything the proud Australians will come out more determined than ever.

The writer grew up in a home with sports as its religion and “The Cricketer” subscription of black and white pages as holy script. He resides in Istanbul and can be reached here.