SHARJAH: With the three match ODI series tied 1-1, Pakistan and Australia meet in the third and deciding match of the series in the battling heat of Sharjah, today, September 3, 2012.
The concluding matches have given plenty of indication of the strength both sides possess. The 'Men in Green' have the best spin attack in favourable conditions, led by talisman Saeed Ajmal, while the current Aussie contingent are more inclined to prey on the opposition’s weaknesses.
The first match offered Australians the chance to exploit that and they duly did by bowling out Pakistan on 198. Pakistan’s frailties with the bat gave their bowlers little to defend at and eventually resulted in a victory for the visitors, albeit a hard-fought one.
The second encounter saw the touring team struggle to tackle Saeed Ajmal but a total of 248 seemed competitive, only for dew to become a deciding factor and paving way for an easy seven-wicket victory for the hosts.
It’s all to play for in the final game as the venue again shifts to Sharjah. Australia has problems upfront where openers, Matthew Wade and David Warner, have failed to make much of an impact. Their slow going at the top puts added pressure on the middle-order, which then has the added job of dealing with Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and Abdur Rehman/Shahid Afridi, a task made harder given the spin friendly conditions.
Warner’s destructive abilities are well known but his adapting capacity needs to improve if he is to succeed in all formats of the game. In the last ODI, he took 19 balls to get off the mark and then ended up making just 24 off 68 balls, which seriously puts doubt over his credentials as the leading opener for the hosts.
The bowling tactics might need a shuffle as well, with Mitchell Starc nursing a side strain. Xavier Doherty, their leading spinner, could get a reckoning, owing to the inability of the part timers to make a mark. The inclusion of Alister McDermott is also an option, with Mitchell Johnson dropping to the bench.
However, for most Aussie players, the tour remains a learning curve and one expects them to improve in the coming games, including 3 T201s.
Their opponents however, will feel reinvigorated after a much-needed victory and will seek to maintain that run. Having not beaten Australia in a series since 2002, the Men in Green will know that this remains their best chance to get the monkey off their backs.
The spinners again came to the fore, with Ajmal again proving unplayable, finishing with impressive figures of 4 for 32. Hafeez’s nagging line and length also asked plenty of questions, while Rehman also bowled with confidence.
A shuffle to this trio is still on the cards, after the management confirmed that Shahid Afridi is fit to play. Playing a four-pronged spin attack could be an option, but may lead to imbalance. Sohail Tanvir and Junaid Khan struggled for rhythm, despite the latter claiming three wickets, and will be looked to improve.
The batting charge was equally impressive, with Nasir Jamshed showcasing his talent with a controlled, yet almost run-a-ball knock of 97. Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq are dependable campaigners, followed by the destructive Akmal brothers.
The pitch will offer the same dose of being spin-oriented, while temperatures will remain in the high 40s. Toss holds key.