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June 12, 2019

Toss could be key factor as Pakistan eye Aussie scalp


June 12, 2019

TAUNTON, England: Sarfraz Ahmed would be hoping to win the toss for the first time in this World Cup as Pakistan take on Australia in a key World Cup game here at the County Ground on Wednesday (today).

Pakistan’s captain lost on the flip of the coin in the games against West Indies and England but would love to be at the winning end today as toss is expected to play a crucial role on a wicket that looked green from miles away.

The bitter memories of his team’s catastrophic performance against West Indies in Nottingham would be fresh on Sarfraz’s mind as he and team officials sat down to work out a plan to deal with Australia’s pace attack on a wicket that is expected to assist fast bowlers at least in the initial overs.

“We are going to bowl first if we win the toss,” said Sarfraz. Aaron Finch, Australia’s captain, will do the same. Five of the Pakistani batsmen – Sarfraz, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq and Asif Ali – prepared hard for short-pitched deliveries during an indoor training session.

In the bowling department, Pakistan could be tempted to add another bowler but sources in the team told ‘The News’ that a final decision will only be taken in the morning. “For now, the idea is to keep fielding the winning combination but that might change after seeing the conditions tomorrow morning,” a source said.

On paper, Australia appear to be the favourites despite their disappointing 36-run defeat against India at The Oval on Sunday. The Australians have won 14 of their last 15 ODI matches against Pakistan, including their last eight in a row. They blanked Pakistan 5-0 in an ODI series just weeks before the World Cup.

Despite their terrible track record against Australia in recent times, Sarfraz exuded confidence that springs from the fact that his team tamed formidable England in their second World Cup game last week.

“The momentum is with us,” he said.

While Sarfraz has all of his 15 players available for World Cup duty, Finch will be forced to do some tinkering after all-rounder Marcus Stoinis was ruled out of Wednesday’s game because of a side strain. Stoinis, who took a brilliant reflex catch to dismiss MS Dhoni, picked up the injury during Sunday’s game against India at The Oval. Mitchell Marsh has summoned to cover for Stoinis but he won’t be available for the game against Pakistan.

“We are going to have to juggle things around,” Finch said. Though the weather was clearing up in Taunton, there was still a possibility that rain might play a role on Wednesday.

Australia’s defeat on Sunday was their first World Cup loss while chasing since 1999. They were clueless against the Indian batters who piled up 352-5 and were unable to really get into the hunt while chasing.

Australia will be looking towards comeback opener David Warner to come down firing all cylinders. Glenn Maxwell has an impressive record against Pakistan so does Finch. Pakistan would be looking towards their openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq to provide them with a solid platform and then the in-form Babar Azam to build on it.

Teams (likely):

Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain, wk), Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz

Australia: Aaron Finch (captain), David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith, Shaun Marsh, Alex Carey (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Nathan Coulter-Nile.

Today’s Fixture

Pakistan vs Australia starts 2:30 pm PST at County Ground, Taunton

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